Posts Tagged ‘recipe’

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!

Food-writing class: Recipe writing

For the food-writing class I’m taking at the Muse, we have an assignment to take a badly written recipe and rewrite it in proper format with good directions. Patrick gave us several to choose from and we practiced in class.

This selection sounds like it would make a good casserole for a potluck, and since this is the season … enjoy.

Garden veggies from our 2008 garden
From our 2008 garden: ingredients that could be used in this dish

Black Bean Tortilla Casserole

A meatless meal with lots of zip. Good for vegetarians and those on a budget.

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 green bell peppers, chopped
4 ounces jalapenos, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained (or, if in season, 2 large tomatoes, chopped)
3/4 cup salsa
2 15-ounce cans black kidney beans
12 6-inch corn tortillas
2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (divided use)

2 medium tomatoes, sliced
2 cups lettuce, shredded
3 green onions, sliced
1/8 cup black olives, sliced
1/2 cup sour cream, optional

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers, jalapenos, garlic and cumin. Saute for five minutes. Stir in undrained tomatoes and salsa. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Stir in beans.

Spread 1/3 of the bean mixture over the bottom of a 13”x9”x2” baking dish. Top with half of the tortillas, overlapping as necessary, and half of the cheese. Add another 1/3 of the bean mixture, the remaining tortillas, and the rest of the bean mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes until heated through.

Sprinkle with remaining cheese and let stand 10 minutes. Top with tomato slices, lettuce, green onion and olives. Cut into squares and serve with sour cream.

A delicious one-pot meal: Paella

A few years ago, my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas a wonderful gift for a foodie like me – a paella kit. It included a paella pan, Spanish rice and olive oil, and some saffron.

Saffron is the most expensive spice in the world, because harvesting it is so labor-intensive. Saffron threads are the stamens of a variety of crocus. There are three stamens per flower and each must be picked individually by hand. It has a delicate flavor; liquids are generally infused with saffron and then used in recipes.

Paella is a classic Spanish dish of saffron-flavored rice with seafood, chicken and sometimes chorizo, or Spanish sausage. I made this dish for a dinner party and it was a big hit. Serve with a nice green salad and a vinaigrette made with sherry vinegar.

Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Ultimate Paella with Seafood, Chicken and Chorizo

The term comes from the Latin patella, a flat plate on which offerings were made to the gods. The prepared dish is placed in the middle of the dining table, as it is traditionally eaten straight from the pan.

1/2 tsp. sweet paprika (preferably Spanish smoked paprika)
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. kosher salt
3 chicken thighs, cut in half
5 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish chorizo sausage, thickly sliced (about ½ cup)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped roasted red peppers
1/2 cup Spanish onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped (reserve some for garnish)
2 medium ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
3 cups short-grain Spanish rice, preferably Calasparra
5 1/2 cups strong chicken broth
Generous pinch saffron threads (about 1/2 tsp.)
1 dozen littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 dozen mussels, scrubbed
1 pound jumbo shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 lemons, cut into wedges

Combine paprika, oregano and salt. Rub spice mixture all over the chicken, cover and refrigerate for one hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 325*.

Warm chicken broth in a saucepan to just below a simmer. Crush saffron slightly and stir into broth; keep warm.

Heat the oil in a 14-inch paella pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the chorizo until lightly browned; remove from pan and set aside. Add chicken skin-side down and brown well on all sides; remove from pan and set aside. Sauté onions in the same pan; when the onions start to brown, add red peppers, garlic and half of parsley. Cook for 3 minutes over medium heat. Add tomatoes; cook until mixture caramelizes a bit, stirring occasionally.

Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the grains with the onion mixture. Pour in the chicken broth and stir gently to loosen browned bits from the bottom of the pan. The broth will almost fill the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes, stirring the mixture a couple of times.

Press the clams into the rice. Simmer for 5 minutes more, occasionally moving the pan on top of the flame so the rice cooks evenly and starts to absorb the liquid. You should still have a lot of liquid in the pan.

Press the chicken (with any accumulated juices), chorizo, mussels and shrimp into the rice. Place the pan into the oven and bake, uncovered, for 25 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven. Place the pan on the stovetop and sprinkle with peas and parsley. Cover with foil and let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve.

Cranberry-Orange Scones, with a Low-Fat Option

Have I told you I’m on the board of the League of Women Voters of South Hampton Roads? Yesterday was our annual program planning/general membership/holiday party meeting, and traditionally, board members, and sometimes others, bring brunch-type goodies to have during the meeting.

I got up early to make scones and realized I was out of whipping cream. So I used what I had – I substituted a few tbsp. of low-fat cream cheese and a half cup of skim milk for the whipping cream. I’ve made these scones for this event for several years now, and I got more compliments than ever, so I guess low-fat is the way to go.

Ingredients for cranberry-orange scones

Cranberry-Orange Scones

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. granulated sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) firm unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup sweetened dried cranberries (such as Craisins)
2 tsp. grated orange peel
1/4 tsp. orange extract

Optional: Instead of whipping cream, cut 3 tbsp. low-fat cream cheese into flour with the butter and add 1/2 cup skim milk with the liquid ingredients.

Optional: Sprinkle with candy sprinkles – I used fall colors with leaves.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet or spray with cooking spray.

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork, mix butter, and optional cream cheese, into dry ingredients until mixture is the size of small peas. Add remaining ingredients, mixing just until the dry ingredients are moist.

Using a small spoon, scoop out golf-ball size pieces of dough, put on the baking sheet, and pat down lightly, or you can turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat into a circle 3/4-inch thick, then cut dough into 8 to 10 wedges. I like a more rustic look, so I spoon it out.

Place on cookie sheet. Sprinkle with sugar and optional candy sprinkles. Bake 12 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 20 scones.

Platter of cranberry-orange scones

Hard-Cider Pork Chops

I saw this recipe a couple of years ago on Nigella Lawson‘s TV show Nigella Feasts (although I changed the name, since I like the cider part better) and have wanted to try it ever since.

I finally found hard cider (fermented apple juice) at Angry Adam’s, our local wine and cheese (and other yummy stuff) shop. So I was finally able to try it, and it was delicious and very easy. And the hard cider is great on its own.

Hard-Cider Pork Chops
2 pork chops
salt & pepper
2 tsp. oil
1/2 cup hard cider
1 tbsp. grainy mustard
1/3 cup heavy cream

Sprinkle chops on both sides with salt and pepper to taste. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, then add the oil. Swirl the oil around, then add the pork chops and sear until well-browned on both sides. Remove chops to a plate, cover with foil, and keep warm.

Add the cider to the pan and use a wooden spatula to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Boil for a minute, then whisk in mustard and cream. Simmer a few minutes to reduce a bit. Place pork chops on serving plates and pour cider sauce over.

Hard-cider Pork Chops

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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