Saturday, October 11, 2008

Leaving the Blogging World for Now

I had immense fun learning to blog and enjoying so many people's ideas and dishes from all over the world. I've made friends along the journey. Right now, life has gotten hectic and I need to take a break for however long. Thank you, Shandy

Monday, October 6, 2008

Harrison House Granola - Pro Bono Baker

I absolutely LOVE homemade granola. The fresh ingredients that include oatmeal, nuts, seeds, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon to name just a few things. When the granola bakes, the aroma wafting throughout the house has everyone's tummy growling in anticipation.

I think I love making homemade granola the most because of memories from when I was growing up. I remember my Mom in the kitchen making granola and how awesome the granola smelled coming fresh from the oven. I am almost positive she used to put dried dates in hers. I am definitely going to have to call and ask. This granola did not get any dried fruit but then with all the nuts, seeds, and other fun ingredients, fruit was not needed. This so beats the last recipe of granola I made. Thanks to reading Pro Bono Baker's website, I discovered that she also loves this recipe and shared it in her blog.

The issue that I had with my previous recipe was the granola didn't make little clumps. The consistency was more like pouring oatmeal out of a bag with allot of other great ingredients. . .no clumps. I saw ingredients in this recipe I have never even heard of, like flax seed meal and millet. Isn't millet what I feed the little birds in my yard? My sister told me "Oh, that is so good for you" and all of a sudden I wasn't so sure I wanted to make it any more. I know nutritious doesn't mean the food isn't going to be full of flavor BUT my tastebuds were starting to rebel. I quickly changed my mind when the first batch came out of the oven. So good!

Harrison House Granola

7 C steel cut oats
.5 C brown sugar
.5 C light olive oil
.5 tsp sea salt
.5 C almonds
.5 C pecans
.5 C cashews
.5 C raw pumpkin seeds
.5 C sesame seeds
.5 C flax seed meal
.5 C millet
.5 C oat bran
.5 C unsweetened coconut
.5 C raw sunflower seeds
.75 C honey
1 Tbl vanilla extract
2 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 300F.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Clumps are OK.

Spread mixture on two large baking sheets, lined with silicone mats.

Bake about 30 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes, until lightly toasted.

Remove from oven and let cool on sheets, stirring periodically. The granola will continue to cook.

Store in airtight containers when cool.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

My Kitchen, My World Celebrates Ecuador

I'm sitting here "trying" to type and concentration is next to impossible. You see, we have acquired a new kitten. She is now about 11 weeks old but her family was moving and could no longer keep her. We, of course, adopted her into our family. Okay, all of us "except" Fluffy, our other rescued black and white kitty. Fluffy was abandoned as a baby and we rescued her one stormy night. Now the kitten, Socks (already named before she came to our home), gives Fluffy nothing but grief. Fluffy was casually sitting next to me when Socks jumped on her. I can not get a very good picture of the two duking it out. I bet you can't tell which kitty starts and which kitty ends? I think it is hilarious that the two cats look so much alike.

Ecuador was the country of choice for this week's event in My Kitchen, My World. Shelby, of The Life and Loves of Grumpy's Honeybunch, chose this country for a fantastic reason and you should go check her blog out to see what the great reason was!

Personally, I did not have as great of a reason to make the meal aside from belonging to this wonderful group of blogging friends. My choice for the meal? I had to do a little research for this but I found out that Locro (potato soup) and Ensalada de Frutas (Fruit Salad) are both loved staple dishes for Ecuador. I think of potato soup and a picture of a creamy chowder with chunks of potatoes, cream, herbs, and whatever else sounds wonderful comes to mind. Ecuador potato soup is "nothing" like this. Simple, filling, and delicious with the addition of Munster cheese for this version. The fruit salad has zero additional ingredients, just fruit basting in there own juices for several hours in the refrigerator. Delicious!

There are many varieties of potatoes in Ecuador and they were first eaten in the Andes
Mountains. Potatoes are staple in Ecuador and for many Ecuadorians they are a primary
source of food.

Potato Soup (Lucro)
1 cup butter
1 tsp. Sweet paprika
1 onion
4 cups water
4 lbs. Potatoes
1 cup milk
1 cup light cream
1 lb. Muenster cheese

Peel and slice potatoes. Heat butter in a large heavy saucepan. Stir in paprika. Chop
onion, add to saucepan and sauté over medium heat until onion is softened.
Add water, bring to a boil then add potatoes and reduce heat. Simmer uncovered over
low heat, stirring occasionally.

When potatoes are soft enough to put a fork through them, add the milk and cream. Cook
until potatoes begin to disintegrate.
Add Muenster cheese and salt to taste.
Makes 4 servings

Ensalada de Frutas (Fruit Salad)
A variety of fruits are grown in Ecuador.

2 packages fresh strawberries
2 large mangos
2 bananas
2 honeydew or cantaloupe (or one of each)
1 large can diced pineapple, well drained

Have a large bowl prepared for the fruit. Mix fruit together after each addition. Rinse and
slice strawberries. Peel, pit and dice the mango. Scoop out melon balls from the
honeydew and/or cantaloupe or cut into chunks. Peel the banana and slice. Mix well,
cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
Makes 8 servings

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Chicken Vegetable Soup; Herbed Cornbread Muffins & Parmesan Butter

I froze my bun-buns off at work yesterday and all I could think of was making a nice hot soup, wrapping up in a blankie and getting warm. I started out wanting a homemade chicken noodle soup and ended up making a chicken vegetable soup. The muffins were an afterthought but I ended up baking cornbread muffins mixed with fresh rosemary, chives, and sage. Then I mixed 1/2 cup of butter with the same fresh herbs and added grated Parmesan cheese. The whole dinner took about an hour and a half. So worth the effort because this comforting soup makes enough for leftovers. Talking about leftovers means the soup was delicious =D! BTW, I still want chicken noodle soup. Homemade noodles sounds so good right now. The noodles are not hard to make but tend to be more of a weekend adventure because the noodles need a little drying time before they can be cooked. There is nothing like fresh pasta. . .Great, now I want to go make noodles NOW. Saturday is just around the corner though.

I am going to tell on myself about another great thing that I did. I stopped at a Goodwill (second-hand clothing and paraphernalia store) to look for cookbooks and found 6 awesome ones. Each cookbook was hard cover and in great shape. Not new looking "but" definitely not beat up looking either. After tax, we spend $24.00. I do not need anymore cookbooks but I couldn't pass this up either. I actually had a blast looking through the selection, which took up 4 full shelves.

Now on to the dinner:

Chicken Vegetable Soup
4 (1-pound) bone-in chicken
8 cups water
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cups peeled, sliced carrots
2 cups chopped celery
2 (14.5 ounce) cans fire-roasted tomatoes
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon seasoned salt, such as Lawry's
1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
4 cups chopped new potatoes
2 (15.5 ounce) cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed

Place chicken in a large stockpot. Add 8 cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from broth; set aside to cool. Strain broth and reserve.

Return stockpot to hear. Add olive oil. Add garlic and onion and cook over medium heat for 6 to 7 minutes, or until translucent. Add carrots and celery and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, seasoned salt, and Creole seasoning, stirring well to combine.

Add chicken stock and reserved chicken broth. Stir well. Add potatoes and bring soup to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until potatoes are fork tender.

While potatoes are cooking, remove chicken from bone, shredding into bite-size pieces. Add chicken to soup. Add peas to soup and simmer for 3 minutes.

Herbed Cornbread Muffins
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as Rosemary, chives, and sage

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin pan; set aside.

In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and black pepper, stirring well. Add beaten eggs, milk, and vegetable oil to cornmeal mixture, stirring to combine. Add fresh herbs to batter, stirring gently. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden brown.

Parmesan Butter
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup salted butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
Garnish: Fresh herbs

Pour 3/4 cups of grated Parmesan cheese into bowl. Add butter and black pepper, mixing to combine. Add olive oil and fresh herbs. Mix until combines; garnish with fresh herbs.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

No Bean Texas Beef Brisket Chili

I am finally relinquishing to the fact that summer is no more. Fall is here with soups, stews, chilies, and Crockpot dinners being the now cherished meals of the season. This new chili recipe has so many twists on what a chili can be along with ideas that boarder on so different that this dish can not be remotely associated with the chile category. There are no beans which is no biggie since many people do not think of chili as having beans but there are large cuts of brisket instead of hamburger, small steak pieces, and sausages of different types. Potatoes are also part of the list of ingredients. Now, I know for a fact that I have "never" seen potatoes, sweet or otherwise, in a pot of chili. In fact, I want to try this chili again with sweet potato chunks added instead of the Yukon Gold potatoes I used this time. 6 dried ancho chilies along with all the other added goodness puts a little kick in this chilies step. I had fun making this and would make this again just to see the faces of the recipients when the chili was served. After diving in, I know the chili would become well loved and part of the chili family~ recipe found in the October 2008 issue of the Bon Appetit magazine.

Texas Beef Brisket Chili
6 large dried ancho chilies*
6 ounces bacon, diced
1 1/4 pounds onions, chopped (about 4 cups)
1 5-pound flat-cut (also called first-cut) beef brisket, cut into 2 1/2- to 3-inch cubes
Coarse kosher salt
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 10-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies (1 3/4 cups)
1 12-ounce bottle Mexican beer
1 7-ounce can diced roasted green chilies
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
4 cups 1 1/2- to 2-inch chunks seeded peeled butternut squash (from 3 1/2-pound squash)

Fresh cilantro leaves
Chopped red onion
Diced avocado
Shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Warm corn and/or flour tortillas

Place chilies in medium bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover. Soak until chilies soften, at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Saute bacon in heavy large oven-proof pot over medium-high heat until beginning to brown. Add onions. Reduce heat to medium; cover and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle beef all over with coarse salt and pepper. Add to pot; stir to coat. Set aside.

Drain chilies, reserving soaking liquid. Place chilies in blender. Add 1 cup soaking liquid, garlic, chili powder, cumin seeds, oregano, coriander, and 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt; blend to puree, adding more soaking liquid by 1/4 cupfuls if very thick. Pour puree over brisket in pot. Add tomatoes with juices, beer, green chilies, and cilantro stems. Stir to coat evenly.

Bring chili to simmer. Cover and place in oven. Cook 2 hours. Uncover and cook until beef is almost tender, about 1 hour. Add squash; stir to coat. Roast uncovered until beef and squash are tender, adding more soaking liquid if needed to keep meat covered, about 45 minutes longer. Season chili to taste with salt and pepper. Tilt pot and spoon off any fat from surface of sauce. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Cool 1 hour. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled.

The sauteed onions and bacon smell so good! The aroma wafted throughout the house.

Next time I will not cut the brisket to the size specified in the recipe. Way to big, even after being cooked ~ unless shredding is desired before serving.

The recipe states that it serves 8 to 10 people but I am thinking more like a dozen unless you have some really hungry guests. There was enough to have for leftovers for several nights plus a large bowl for the freezer.

I think adding garnishes on a chili is the best because everyone can dress the chili up according to taste and the presentation is always great.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

TWD ~ Creme Brulee

Tuesday with Dorie is here again and Mari of the blog Mevrouw Cupcake chose Creme Brulee; found on page 393 in Dorie Greenspan's cookbook: Baking From My home to Yours. I have always wanted to make creme brulee but learned that using a torch to melt sugar is not that easy. In fact, the recipe calls for 1 Tablespoon of sugar sprinkled on top of each creme brulee and this makes a really thick and overly crunchy crust. I figured about a teaspoon and a half was an ample amount of sugar. I can't wait to see other fellow TWD bakers and their brulees to see if anyone else had dark spots on top when taken out of the oven?

The torch was definitely fun to use and I can see using this little torch on meringues in the future. I also can see I need practice. The recipe is simple to make and fast to put together. The biggest part of the recipe is the waiting time for the little creme brulees to chill. Next time, I would like to use only 4 ramekins so there is a deeper spoonful of the custard to scoop from. I didn't deviate from the recipe because I already LOVE vanilla flavor and wanted the original recipe to be my first try.

There are just a few ingredients needed to make this custard. Starting out by bringing heavy cream and whole milk to a boil is easy enough.

Whipping the 3 egg yolks, adding sugar (I used by vanilla bean flavored sugar), and the vanilla. Making sure not to add to much air so there are as few bubbles in the mixture as possible.

I used my gravy grease separator for pouring the liquid custard. By using this cup, very little bubbles on the surface poured into the little ramekin dishes.

I have had these little porcelain ramekins for a while now and finally was able to use them. The first ramekin, I poured the custard from a regular measuring cup and there were bubbles on the surface. After using the other cup, no bubbles.

I was worried about the brown spots on top of the custard. I do not remember ever ordering a creme brulee at a restaurant and seeing anything colored like this.

This one has a thinner crust of sugar but the coloring looks a little rough =).

This one had almost the whole tablespoon of sugar on top and I found the thick, caramelized sugar crust to be too much. Less sugar on top for us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Crushed Blackberry Sundae with Toasted Pecans, HomeMade Caramel Sauce, and Whipped Cream

Thinking back, I do not recall ever making my own caramel sauce. I picked the last of our blackberries for this season and wanted to make something special but light. Looking through recipes and ideas, an ice cream sundae with a blackberry sauce sounded really tasty. Bobby Flay did this Blackberry Sundae with HomeMade Caramel Sauce that really sounded unforgettable. In fact, I read this recipe several days ago, along with many others, and this recipe is the only one that I kept thinking about, mainly because of the homemade caramel sauce. A vanilla bean is used in the caramel and the sauce itself sounded easy to make. No crucial timing, no worrying about overcooking, nothing but simplicity.

Today, I finally had the time to give the recipe a try. Besides, I was worried about losing my blackberries since they have been in the refrigerator for 3 days. I also looked for any chance to use my vanilla bean flavored sugar. I sprinkled this sugar on the berries with the Creme de Casis and I sprinkled the sugar on the whipped cream. I absolutely love vanilla bean flavored anything. I know so many other cooks are looking for the brilliant flavor combinations along with color but I really think that the vanilla beans gets overlooked at times. Whats wrong with loving this simple flavor?

The recipe? Simple, easy, and can definitely be used as a showstopping dessert for dinner guests. The flavor really pops with toasted pecans chopped into large pieces, homemade vanilla bean flavored caramel sauce, fresh blackberries, and homemade whipped cream. I believe that frozen blackberries, dethawed, would work just as well.

Crushed Blackberry Sundae with Toasted Pecans, Homemade Caramel Sauces, and Whipped Cream

1 cup pecans
1 quart premium vanilla bean ice cream
Caramel Sauce, recipe follows
Crushed Blackberries, recipe follows
Freshly whipped cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread the pecans evenly on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8to 10 minutes. Remove and let cool before coarsely chopping.

Place a scoop of ice cream in a parfait glass and top with caramel sauce, crushed blackberries, and pecans.
Repeat 2 more times and then top with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Caramel Sauce:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 vanilla bean, split in 1/2 lengthwise and seeds scraped
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon cold unsalted butter
Pinch salt

Place the heavy cream and vanilla bean and seeds in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove the cream from the heat and let sit while making the caramel.

Whisk together the sugar and water in a medium non-reactive saucepan over high heat. Cook until dark golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes.Remove the caramel from the heat and immediately add the cream slowly,stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Return to the heat and cook until the mixture becomes smooth. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and salt. Transfer to a bowl and serve immediately.

Crushed Blackberries:
2 pints blackberries
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cassis liqueur

Combine the blackberries, sugar, and cassis in a medium bowl and stir well. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, use a fork to crush the blackberries.

These sundaes are so worth making again! Delicious =)