Archive for the ‘Food blogging events’ Category

Daring Bakers’ Challenge: Homemade Crackers

Daring Kitchen logoDan gave me a KitchenAid mixer for Christmas, so I could expand my cooking in a new direction. But since I’ve never baked much, I have a hard time thinking of things to do with it! So I decided to challenge myself and try new techniques by joining the Daring Bakers, an online group that comes up with a baking challenge each month. All members bake the same item and publish a blog post about it on the same day each month. The item is known only to the members until the publication day. Which was yesterday. Yes, I’m late on my first challenge, but it turned out well!

Our July 2012 Daring Bakers’ Host was Dana McFarland and she challenged us to make homemade crackers! Dana showed us some techniques for making crackers and encouraged to use our creativity to make each cracker our own by using ingredients we love.

The only requirement was to use two different methods to make two types of crackers:

  • icebox crackers, where you mix ingredients, shape them into a log, refrigerate to firm up, then slice and bake; or
  • rolled crackers, where you combine ingredients in a mixer, then roll out by hand or with pasta rollers. From here, you can cut out shapes with a cookie/biscuit cutter or cut the sheets into cracker shapes after baking.

Dan and I were out of town the first two weeks of July, so I had limited time to get this done. Last week, I tried a cracker recipe I had printed out years ago – Ina Garten’s Parmesan and Thyme Crackers. But I measured the flour wrong and they crumbled. Lesson learned.

Next I decided to try the Seedy Crisps, an Alton Brown recipe. These are so good! Thin and crisp, filled with poppy and sesame seeds, these crunchy little bites go great with cheese. They rolled out very easily and didn’t stick to my granite countertop, which I love. It’s important to cut them while they’re still warm; otherwise, they just break apart.

Seedy Crisps
Seedy Crisps. Recipe by Alton Brown.

The third recipe I made was really easy, too. I just need to remember to take the butter out to soften! Since I don’t bake much, I’m always forgetting about that part. Anyway, these were Rosemary, Cheddar and Walnut Icebox Crackers from “Garde Manger, The Art and Craft of the Cold Kitchen” by the Culinary Institute of America. I used pine nuts nuts instead of walnuts since we like those better.

These are like a cheesy, herby little shortbread. These are one of the icebox types; I still have another log in the fridge to bake off later. Because of the high fat content from the cheese and nuts, these will not last as long as the crisps, but the dough will keep in the fridge for days. Now, it just needs to be sliced and baked so we can enjoy it again.

Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers
Rosemary, Cheddar and Pine Nut Crackers

The recipes and tips are all available on the Daring Kitchen website.

This was a really fun challenge, and I look forward to participating in many more!

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GYO: Pasta Primavera with Chicken Andouille Sausage

Grow Your OwnLong time, no see! Happy Autumn! This is one of my favorite seasons, with all the wonderful produce pouring out of the garden and into the kitchen.

The freezer is full, too. Last week, we ate mostly from the freezer, pantry and garden – I have way too much in all of those places, so we’re working on paring it down. One item I found in the freezer was a package of chicken Andouille sausage from Trader Joe’s. I mixed it with fresh and frozen garden veggies, pasta and some Mexican queso cheese I found in the fridge (feta would work well, too) and we had a delicious, inexpensive meal. Yummo!

Pasta Primavera with Chicken Andouille Sausage

1/2 pound short pasta, such as rotini or penne
extra virgin olive oil
1 pound chicken Andouille sausage, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1/2 cup each of the following (or vegetables of your choice), diced: green and red bell peppers, zucchini, green beans, onions
1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup of your favorite white wine
salt and pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese
Queso or feta cheese, diced

Cook pasta according to package directions.

Meanwhile, in a large saute pan, heat 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil. Add sausage and stir occasionally with a wooden spatula to brown well on all sides.

Remove sausage to a plate. Add vegetables to the pan and stir 6-8 minutes, or until they start to turn brown. Add garlic and jalapeno and stir 30 seconds or until they become fragrant.

Add wine and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the browned bits. Add sausage back to pan. Taste and add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Cook about five minutes, to meld flavors.

Combine drained pasta and vegetable/sausage mixture. Serve, sprinkling each serving with cheese.

Pasta Primavera with Andouille Sausage

This is my contribution the the food blogging event Grow Your Own, created by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes. The bell and jalapeno peppers and garlic came from our garden.

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GYO: Shrimp Bun – Vietnamese-style Rice Noodle Salad

Grow Your Own Food Blogging EventSome friends introduced me to Vietnamese cooking a few years ago, at the restaurant Great Saigon on Virginia Beach Blvd. in Janaf Mall. One of my favorite meals to get there is bun, or meat served over salad and rice noodles with a hot, sweet, salty and sour sauce or dressing.

I decided to try making it at home by combining a recipe I found at myrecipes.com with one from the cookbook The Best International Recipe by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated magazine. It’s a bit more work than I want to do on a weeknight, but next time, I’ll mix up the dressing ahead of time and maybe skip the shallots.

This is my contribution to the food blogging event Grow Your Own, originated by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes, which celebrates raising and cooking our own fresh food. The lemongrass, mint and chiles in this recipe came from my garden. We had a huge crop of hot chiles last year, and I still have some in the freezer.

Here’s a tip: To preserve whole hot chiles, place them on a cookie sheet and put it in the freezer. Freeze until fully frozen, then remove to a zipper-lock bag and keep in the freezer. When ready to use, remove the number of chiles needed from the bag and let thaw on a plate on the counter. This will take about 10 minutes, depending on the size of the chile. Trust me, they maintain their hotness 🙂

Shrimp Bun – Korean-style Rice Noodle Salad

Ingredients – serves 4

Shrimp
2 tbsp. fish sauce
2 tbsp. canola or peanut oil
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 lb. peeled and deveined large or extra-large shrimp
2 stalks lemongrass, trimmed and crushed with the side of a knife

Dressing
1/3 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup warm water
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
2 fresh hot chiles, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

Shallots
1/8 cup canola or peanut oil
1/2 shallot, julienned
salt to taste

Salad
2 carrots, or 6 baby carrots, peeled and shredded
1/2 cucumber, peeled and julienned (cut into matchstick shapes)
4 oz. dried rice noodles
2 cups lettuce, any kind, cut into bite-size pieces
1/4 cup fresh basil, cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
1/4 cup fresh mint, cut into chiffonade (ribbons)
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup chopped peanuts

Preparation

SHRIMP: Combine shrimp with marinade ingredients; seal in a zipper-lock bag, place in a leak-proof container, and refrigerate for 1 hour, turning occasionally.

DRESSING: Whisk dressing ingredients in a medium bowl until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.

SHALLOTS: Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and cook for 5 minutes, until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Strain shallots through a sieve into a small bowl; reserve oil. Place fried shallots on a paper-towel-lined plate to drain, and set aside.

SALAD: Place rice noodles in a large bowl and cover with boiling water. Let stand 20 minutes, then drain. Combine the noodles with the shallot oil, 1/4 of the lettuce, and 1/2 of the bean sprouts, carrots and cucumber, tossing well.

Pre-heat grill or grill pan. Remove shrimp from bag and discard marinade. Grill shrimp 2-1/2 minutes per side, till completely opaque. Place 1/4 of the noodle mixture in each of 4 bowls. Top each serving with 1/4 of the shrimp and 2 tbsp. of the dressing. Pile 1/4 of each of the remaining ingredients around the rim of the bowls and top with 1/4 of the fried shallots. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts and serve.

Grow Your Own: Vietnamese Shrimp-Noodle Salad (Bun)

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Paper Chef: Scones with Honey, Ricotta, and Dill

I like participating in food blogging events when I can, because they challenge me to come up with variations or to try food combinations I probably would not have thought of on my own. Paper Chef provides a random collection of ingredients and you prepare a recipe using all of those ingredients, like Chopped on the Food Network. Unfortunately, I missed the deadline, but here’s the recipe anyway 🙂

This one is an especially interesting mix: honey, ricotta, dill – and an egg.

A recipe came immediately to mind when I saw those ingredients, though. In 2008, I won a cookbook called “Covered in Honey” in a recipe contest at Joelen’s Culinary Adventures, and made Scones with Honey, Rosemary and Goat Cheese. So I thought, why not replace the rosemary with dill and the goat cheese with ricotta, and see what happens?

I was afraid the dill would be really strong, so I used a rather light hand with it – should have used more. The scones have a very light dill scent and flavor, but I think I could have doubled it and had a better result. The ricotta gives the scones a very creamy texture and the honey sweetens them just perfectly. This one is well worth repeating, with some extra dill – I doubled it in the recipe below.

Savory Scones with Honey, Ricotta and Dill

2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup herbal honey
1 large egg
1/2 cup cream or whole milk
1 tbsp. dill, chopped
5 oz. ricotta cheese
Additional cream or milk for glazing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. In another bowl, lightly whisk the olive oil, honey, egg, cream or milk and 2 tsp. of the dill. Use a pastry cutter or fork to blend the ricotta cheese with the flour mixture until the mixture makes pea-size crumbs.

Make a well in the flour mixture and add the olive oil mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon until a dough ball forms. Remove the dough ball to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly, just enough to form a workable ball.

Pull off about 1/8 cup-size pieces of dough, roll each in your hands to form a ball, and lightly flatten a bit. Place dough pieces on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper or a Silpat, about 1 inch apart. Brush tops with more cream or milk and sprinkle with the remaining 1 tsp. dill. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown.

Honey, Ricotta and Dill Scones

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GYO: Antipasto Pesto Pasta

I love the sound of that 🙂 And the dish was pretty good, too.

We had about 16 people over for Thanksgiving, and since we had spent two weeks in Europe, including a week in Italy, in September, naturally I wanted to serve antipasto for an appetizer.

But most people were holding out for the main event, so there was quite a bit left over. What to do with all these preserved meats and veggies? Put them in a pasta, of course! I found this great-sounding recipe and modified it for what we had and like, and it turned out great. I’ll definitely make it again.

This is my entry in Grow Your Own, the foodie event started by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes and hosted this month by House of Annie. GYO celebrates the food we grow ourselves. We grew the basil and parsley for the pesto in this dish, and I froze pesto to use during the winter, since the basil was so prolific. The round-up of all the entries has been posted, so check them out!

Antipasto Pesto Pasta
1 medium roasted red bell pepper, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup marinated cocktail onions, halved
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, chopped
3 ounces salami, chopped
1/2 cup marinated mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup marinated quartered artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/3 cup refrigerated pesto
8 ounces uncooked bow-tie pasta (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup (2 ounces) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, divided
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Place the roasted pepper, onions, olives, salami, mushrooms, and artichokes in a large bowl and mix gently.

Cook the pasta according to package directions, omitting salt; drain. In a small bowl, mix together the pesto and 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese; add to bell pepper mixture, and toss to combine. Add pasta to bell pepper mixture and stir.

Sprinkle each serving with 2 tsp. remaining cheese and 2 tsp. pine nuts.


Antipasto Pasta

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Parmesan-Rosemary Focaccia in a Bread-Machine

grow_your_own_logo-2009-bldgWow, where did October go? Oh, yeah – work, work, work. Come home and guess what? Don’t really want to hang out at the computer. So the blog has suffered a bit. Ah, well, maybe it will get better during the holidays 😉

Anyway, last night we went to a Halloween/Birthday party and I took a platter of sandwich bites made with homemade bread-machine focaccia. I let the bread machine make the dough, and then I spread the dough in a pan for the last rise and bake it in the oven.

A friend asked me for the recipe, so here it is. I’ll save the sandwich recipe for another post. This recipe is a hybrid of one from Cook’s Illustrated magazine and one in the cookbook that came with my bread machine. As it happens, I used fresh rosemary from the garden, so this qualifies as a long-overdue contribution to the food blogging event Grow Your Own, created and hosted by Andrea of Andrea’s Recipes.

Bread-Machine Rosemary Focaccia

1 cup water at 80 degrees F
1/3 cup olive oil, plus 2 tbsp.
2 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 cups bread flour
1-1/2 tsp. active dry yeast, or 1 tsp. QuickRise yeast, or 1 tsp. Bread Machine Yeast
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. fresh rosemary, chopped, or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crumbled

Place the ingredients – except the Parmesan cheese, rosemary and 2 tbsp. olive oil – in the bread-machine pan in the order given. Turn to the dough setting and turn it on. Watch it for the first minute or two – you may need to use a spatula to make sure all the flour is incorporated into the dough ball. Then let the bread machine do its thing through the first rise time, about 1 hour and 20 minutes.

Generously oil a jelly roll pan – I use a Pampered Chef 9″x13″ stone baking pan. Remove the dough from the machine, wet your hands with water (to prevent sticking), and press the dough flat into the pan, pushing it into all the corners. If it resists, let it rest for 10 minutes and continue. Use your fingers or a pair of chopsticks to press dimples into the dough at even intervals – your yummy toppings will collect in these. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm, draft-free place while you heat the oven, at least 20 minutes. I put it in the microwave – no drafts in there.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees F. Press dimples into dough again. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. olive oil, then the cheese and rosemary. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on top. Transfer to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares or wedges to serve immediately. To serve later, cool completely and reheat at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

Cooled focaccia can also be frozen for up to one month. To reheat, thaw at room temperature for 30 minutes, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F, then heat directly on oven racks for 10 minutes.

There are lots of variations on this basic recipe: You can add garlic powder and/or onion powder and/or herbs to the dry ingredients, or add caramelized onions to the topping. Focaccia is great for dipping in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, or you can slice it lengthwise and use for panini.

Rosemary-Parmesan Focaccia
This is half the recipe.

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