Sunday, October 31, 2010

SMS - Goat Cheese, Olive and Thyme Muffins, combines with the Gutsy Cooks Oxtail Stew and Polenta - Plus Some

It is Hanaa's week to host for Sweet Melissa Sundays! Hooray for Hanaa of Hanaa's Kitchen! Such a wonderful baking friend and always helpful with cooking/baking tips and knowledge. Hanaa chose Goat Cheese, Olive and Thyme Muffins. Since I have missed the last two weeks with the Gutsy Cooks, who also post on Sundays, I caught up by making a full dinner by combining the menus from both groups. Hopefully I am not confusing anyone here =).

I stuffed my muffin cups with batter since I decided on baking a full batch. Melissa says the recipe only makes 12 muffins but the last 3 times I have baked this recipe, using the different add-in ingredients, the recipe has made more like 18 muffins.

Melissa's baking time is a little too long, according to my oven. The muffins were done in 18 minutes.

The filling with goat cheese, olives, and rosemary is delicious! I wish I had added more rosemary because the fresh herb seemed to get lost in my muffin.
Thank you Hanaa for the easy and delicious choice. Look at other SMS's bakers twists on the recipe by clicking here or go to Hanaa's blog here for the recipe. Now, ON TO GUTSY COOKS!
I may not have been posting the blog BUT I have been cooking right along with the Gutsy Cooks. My excuse, after looking for work in the Northwest for the last 10 months, I have officially started a new job and what a relief~! I am exhausted getting by at 4:15 a.m. and not getting home till after 7 p.m. but I will take the schedule any day over the stress of job hunting.
Now on toooo this week's menu chosen by Monica as the last week of October: Oxtail Stew with Wine and Herbs over Polenta. The recipes are found in The Illustrated Kitchen Bible by Victoria Blashford-Snell and to get the recipes, you will need to buy her cookbook. The author has not given permission for the host to post the recipe. Dessert is last week's Vanilla Custards.
My first time EVER trying oxtail anything. I went to my local butcher, the only place out of 4 major grocery stores to carry oxtail, and the butcher only had 1 package weighing 2 pounds. They sell out on a regular basis - who knew? I ordered another 5 pounds to be picked up next Friday, encase we loved the stew. My husband and I enjoy trying new dishes and this is definitely new for the both of us. I already had beef soup bones with lots of beef still attached so I made up the difference of 4 1/2 pounds with beef.
The recipe calls for fresh thyme and rosemary, a drizzle of honey, salt and pepper for seasonings.
Chopped onions, carrots, fennel, garlic cloves (I added 4 minced) and 2 hot red chiles are all sauteed until tender (about 5 to 6 minutes) then add with the browned oxtail tail and beef bones. A bottle of hearty red wine Cabernet Sauvignon was added as the liquid base for the stew to slowly braise in.

2 1/2 hours later, the oxtail stew came out of the oven and smelled amazing with all the slow roasted vegetables and meat. The sauce had a deep brown color and the flavor picked up all the fresh herbs, vegetables, and meat to make an amazing gravy, poured over the polenta with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
I was raised around brown and white rice, potatoes, and pasta for versions of side dishes. Polenta is a newer dish for me, in fact, this recipe will be the third time I have made polenta. We like it but the texture is still an adjustment.
The verdict is we LOVED the oxtail stew. Oxtail meat does not taste like beef and pulling the meat off of the bone takes a little doing. Definitely tender but a different texture and the meat can kind of a sweeter, different taste that I liked but just can not put my finger on to compare with anything else I have eaten. I am curious to see what others already know about the meat so I can get a better idea of what is normal to expect.

Then there is the vanilla custard. I baked the custards in a water bath the same as the coconut custards we tried earlier ONLY this time I baked the custards a LOT longer. The custards baked along with the oxtail stew but only for 40 minutes at 300 degrees F.

What is not admire and enjoy as a true comfort food the a custard whose base starts with a fresh vanilla bean, simmering in heavy cream and whole milk? Whipped egg yolks and honey are whipped into a thick frenzy and the simmered and soaked vanilla bean mixture is slowly added. Pour into 6 oz. ramekins, set in a water bath containing boiling water and slowly bake until set. Did I mention what is not to like? What a relief to have several dishes turn out right.
I feel terrible saying such a think BUT the empanadas and coconut custards did not turn out and I was having a little trouble pushing myself to keep trying the next recipes. Now, I am glad we did! Thank you Monica, the creator of the Gutsy Cooks group, for choosing all the recipes for the month of October. Last night's dinner kicked butt and was delicious!
Here is the photos of the Empanadas and White Bean Soup for the week of October 17. I really added twists to the bean soup. First I did not blend the beans up in the puree. Also, I simmered the beans with a smoked ham hock. I later took the bone out, pulled the ham and added the pulled meat back into the simmered beans with celery and carrots. I omitted the Pancetta, even though I bought it because, well simply stated, I forgot.
I am not sure if this soup counts since I deviated a LOT from the recipe but we loved it.

The empanadas are a different story. I made a big mess trying and we really did want to like these. The dough is what caught us up and I already changed up the filling ingredients. I just could not do Tuna. The thought made my tummy flip-flop.

Maybe I rolled the dough to thick but the flavor was bland and dry.

I used diced pork with the chopped tomatoes and 2 tsp.'s of tomato paste along with a jar of chipotle corn salsa.

The filling was okay but the whole empanada was hard to eat more then one. I pulled out more salsa for dipping, still we did not eat even half of them. I felt bad posting a negative response but I think being part of a group is knowing that we all have different tastes and this just didn't hit ours.

I do want to try empanadas again, with a different dough recipe, since this was also a first for me to make and the idea was a wonderful one. Thank you Monica for widening our horizons in the kitchen!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Aroma of Homemade Bread Fresh from the Oven ~ Rosemary-Garlic Focaccia Bread

I miss my Mom's homemade bread days. Coming home from school, running through the front door, the aroma of fresh baked bread would hit you head on. Nothing else registered in my mind but the thought of a thick slice coated in butter and eagerly shoved into my mouth. Feels like yesterday. Mom did not have a fancy mixer or bread machine either. Wooden spoon, large bowl and muscle.

If I bake bread, you will see the KA mixer or a handy bread machine for the dough mixing part. Not the baking. I like to add fresh herbs to my bread dough before the dough bakes and I like to shape my loaf. There is a LOT to be said about baking bread on a bread stone in the oven. The process is still SUPER easy.

My whole house smelled of freshly minced garlic and rosemary. The next morning, I could still smell fresh baked bread. The texture is light and the flavors are bold and a wonderful crust.
Here is the recipe:
Rosemary~Garlic Focaccia Bread
(adapted from Healthy Cooking)
3/4 cup warm milk (70° to 80°) ~ I used whole milk but any percentage will work
1/4 cup water (70° to 80°)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 egg, room temperature
2-3/4 cups bread flour
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 teaspoons olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
In bread machine pan, place the milk, water, butter, egg, flour, sugar, 1 teaspoon salt and yeast in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed).
When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch dough down. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Shape into an 11-in. circle; place on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 30 minutes. Using the end of a wooden spoon handle, make several 1/4-in. indentations in dough.
Brush with oil. Sprinkle with garlic, rosemary and remaining salt. Bake at 400° for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

CEiMB -Chicken Pot Pies and a Tuscan Salad

I have had the pleasure of cooking along with wonderful people who care about eating healthier, one of several reasons for cooking with the "Craving Ellie in My Belly" group, and this week is my week to host. Hooray!!!
I chose Ellie's You and Me Chicken Pot pie with a phyllo dough topping , loads of vegetables, all combined in a delicious sauce.

Instead of butter moistening the phyllo dough, Ellie calls for olive oil, then a sprinkling of fresh Parmesan cheese over the top. Pop the dishes into the oven and 30 minutes later we are ready to eat.

I used to be alarmed at using phyllo dough. So fragile looking. If I take my time, moisten as I go, the phyllo dough is work-able.
Verdict: A dinner I will be adding into my list of go-to recipes. We loved it. I did substitute sweet onions for leeks but I can see the potential for adding any type of vegetables and meat (or no meat if you wish).
The You and Me Chicken Pot Pie recipe is posted on the Food Network site here.
I also made a Tuscan Salad to go with the pot pies.

The recipe is adapted from Giada De Laurentiis:
Tuscan Salad
* 8 ounces green beans, cut into 1 to 2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
* 1 head Romaine lettuce, torn
* 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
* 1/2 cup pitted black olives
* 1/2 sweet onion, cut into slivers
* 1 lemon, juiced
* 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt* 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
* 1 ounce shaved Parmesan (about 1/2 cup)
Bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and stir. Cook for about 2 minutes, or until beans are slightly tender. Transfer the cooked green beans to a bowl of ice water and let cool for 3 minutes. Drain the green beans.
In a large bowl, combine the green beans with the lettuce, cannellini beans, olives, and red onion. Toss to combine. Drizzle with lemon juice and olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Top with shaved Parmesan and serve.

Friday, October 15, 2010

French Friday's with Dorie ~ Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup

French Friday's with Dorie has been a great experience in diversity of recipes for the last three weeks. This week: Spicy Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup.

I have made Pho from scratch, a LONG process, and Dorie's soup is much like chicken Pho, except MUCH faster to assemble. Oh, and I have never added coconut milk to Pho before and yet Dorie calls for it.

I did not have coriander seeds, so used powdered coriander to compensate along with pink peppercorns instead of white.

All the ingredients went together quickly and brought to a boil.

The chicken breasts with skin and bone were added in to simmer then removed and the meat picked apart from the bones. After cooling down, the chicken meat was shredded, the noodles were cooked and cilantro was chopped. Added all three of these ingredients to the soup and simmered for a short amount of time. Added lime juice at the end.
Verdict: We loved the flavor of the creamy noodles, light coconut base, spices, and chicken. I did not have bean sprouts or fresh basil leaves on hand (forgot to buy them) but I did have chile oil, hoisin sauce, and lime wedges. A definite addition to my kitchen dinners! Now I would like to try the Curry version of this same soup. My husband loves curry. Thank you Dorie for another great selection this month!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

CEiMB ~ Apple Brown Betty and A Savory Stuffed Pumpkin Dinner

Craving Ellie in My Belly Thursday is here and what a dessert! Apple Brown Betty, chosen by this week's host: Jessica of Learning to Love Vegetables.

The recipe for this delicious dessert is found on Food Network's internet site but I did alter the recipe by doing 2 changes.

Change #1: I used all natural, unsweetened applesauce with my apple slices instead of apple cider which made for a thick filling.

Change #2: I replaced 2 of the Golden Delicious apples with 2 Granny Smith apples for a slight tart flavor.

The apple brown betty was served with low-fat vanilla ice cream while the brown betty was still warm. Delicious! Thank you Jessica for hosting. If you would like to see the rest of the group's desserts, click here for the blog roll.

I also stuffed and baked baby sugar pumpkins, each pumpkin weighed about 2 pounds, and what a delicious dinner filled with chunky vegetables, potatoes, and chicken. All covered in a golden, flaky crust of puff pastry. Very easy recipe to approach and fun for entertaining!

Savory Stuffed Pumpkins
4 sugar pumpkins (no more than about 2 lb each)
4T butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped or diced
2 large russet potatoes(about 1lb-ish, of red or Yukon Gold)
3 stalks celery, diced
1/2 cup sliced carrots(I used babies)
12 oz fresh mushrooms, chopped
1 chicken, turkey, pork or veggie stock
1 cup heavy cream
about 3 cups left over mildly seasoned chicken (or saute 2 chicken breasts cut into cubes and add)
1-2T fresh sage, rubbed and chopped
kosher or sea salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 package puffy pastry sheets, thawed but cool or dough for 2 pie crusts, rolled into 2 rectangles
olive oil
1 egg white, beaten(optional)
4 sprigs fresh rosemary(optional)


Wash outsides of pumpkins and wipe dry with paper towel. Score around the top portion of each pumpkin with sharp knife and remove top with stem. Scoop out seeds and clean.

Lightly brush insides of each pumpkin with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Bake at 350 for about 30-35 minutes until pumpkins have darkened and meat has slight give when pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, in large, heavy pan, melt butter and add potatoes. Season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Let cook about 10 minutes, stirring often, until potatoes start to change color, slightly. Add celery and carrots and continue to cook another 10 minutes or so.

Potatoes should be started to get just a little tender and very slightly browning. Add onion, garlic and mushroom and cook about 10 minutes more. Add stock, chicken, cream and sage and stir well. Simmer about 10-12 minutes, stirring often, to thicken sauce.

Season with salt and pepper. Fill each pumpkin with the meat/veggie mixture. It's okay to take it almost to the top!

Roll each dough just enough to be able to cut 2 circles big enough to fit the pumpkin openings, and have about 1/2 inch extra to press down over the top of the pumpkin. Poke a couple small holes in top of dough and brush with beaten egg.

Bake at 400 for about 30 minutes, or until pastry dough is browned and crisp.
Remove from oven and place one sprig of rosemary in top of each pumpkin to create "stem", if desired.

Monday, October 11, 2010

HCB'ers Day ~ Molten Chocolate Souffle and Lava Cakes

A chocolate dessert that did not send me over the edge, with me talking to myself for several days; what a treat! Heavenly Cake Baker's has definitely helped me grow and widen my horizons with new kitchen skills. If sighing over frustrating mishaps ever becomes a language, I am already fluent.

I used to whip open Rose Beranbaum's Heavenly Cakes cookbook with excitement. Now I approach the cookbook cautiously, open slowly, and let out a HUGE sigh of relief if the recipe is 3 pages or less.

I used the Baker's spray and was relieved to see the spray finally work for me. I have tried the Baker's spray before with disastrous results. The lava cake batter was fluffy and the ganache centers looked so good resting on top.

I was surprised how puffed up these little souffle cakes were first out of the oven. Like a souffle, the little cakes also shrink right up. I was not over excited about the chocolate flavor and my ganache was not oozing out like Roses'. I did like how fast these little cakes went together and nothing stuck to the bottom of my cake cups . . . I am still not over the caramel issue from last time. Looking forward to next week's quick bread. Happy baking everyone!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Gutsy Cook's Club ~ A Roulade and Quindim

Gutsy Cook's Club is here! Our second posting and we have a delicious, fluffy, moist and flavorful roulade filled with fresh baby spinach and sun dried tomatoes. The original recipe filling was ricotta and arugula. I had baby spinach and sun dried tomatoes already.

For dessert, quindim. According to Victoria, author of The Illustrated Kitchen Bible, quindim is a sweet and rich dessert made popular in Brazil. Filled with coconut milk, coconuts bits, and toasted coconut, we have a light and airy custard.

The roulade could not be quicker and easier to bake up then this recipe. The base is a seasoned roux, the same start as for a tasty gravy or sauce, with Parmesan cheese, eggs (separated so the egg whites can be whipped into fluffy white peaks), and a smidgeon of Dijon mustard. The filling consisted of ricotta with a sprinkling of fresh nutmeg, layered with baby spinach and julienned sun dried tomatoes, then rolled up into the pretty roulade above.

I served the roulade with a double-cut, bone-in elegant pork chop and garden salad.

My only change for the roulade would be to not go as crazy with the julienned sun dried tomatoes. I sprinkled a heavy layer so cutting the roulade into slices was interesting.

The quindim I was going to skip all together but hubby asked why? this morning and I stood there just looking at him. I had no answer. So unlike me too.

For anyone who made the quindim, tell me if yours baked through. Mine did not and I found out too late. After the dessert had chilled for 3 hours. I have a wonderful sugar crust on top but once broken through, I have thick liquid. A delicious tasting thick liquid BUT not the creamy custard I pictured.

I even toasted my coconut flakes. Check out the rest of the Gutsy Cooks to see their versions of this two wonderful recipes by clicking here for the blog list.
I thought I would share the double-cute elegant pork chop recipe because the flavors are brilliant together. You have a tender pork-chop baked in a sweet, tomatoey sauce.
Elegant Pork Chops
(recipe adapted from the original by Virginia Miller, home cook)
4 double-cut, bone-in pork chops
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups low-sodium soy sauce
1 T. molasses
1 3/4 cup ketchup
1 1/2 cups chili sauce, such as Heinz (I can my own so that is what I used)
2 T. French dressing
2 T. Dijon mustard

Put pork chops into a baking dish and season with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, whisk 1/2 cup brown sugar, soy sauce, molasses, and 1 cup water and pour over meat. Cover with plastic wrap and let pork chops marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Drain pork chops and transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish. Whisk together remaining brown sugar, ketchup, chili sauce, French dressing, mustard, and 1/3 cup water in a small bowl. Pour sauce over pork chops and bake, turning pork chops and basting with sauce occasionally, until pork chops are tender and sauce has thickened, about 45 minutes. Let pork chops rest for 10 minutes before serving.

SMS ~ Cashew Brittle with a Little Espresso Ice Cream

Crazy weekend so my Cashew Brittle chosen by Stephanie of Ice Cream Before Dinner for Sweet Melissa Sundays is going to be rather speedy. So not my style =). Thank you Stephanie for hosting and the choice. My first try at brittle of any type and I was surprised at how quick this candy is put together.

I have oodles left over and now kind of wished I only made half a batch . . . but the cashew brittle is definitely tasty. I bought my cashews in the bulk section so I can buy exactly what I needed.
I also made up a batch of Espresso with a Twist Ice Cream. The twist is the lemon sugar syrup added into the cream at the end. For the recipe, either go to Stephanie's blog or buy Melissa's cookbook. Check out the other Fab SMS baker's brittle by clicking here.

Friday, October 8, 2010

French Friday with Dorie ~ gerard's mustard tart w/dinner

The kitchen is uncomfortably warm. The oven has been baking away for over 3 hours. Both Shadow and Fluffy are fully extended on the couch "and" ottoman with paws curled over their eyes while they nap. The aroma of a warm tart crust fresh from the oven fills the house. Tomorrow is French Friday with Dorie and our second choice for the month of October; gerard's mustard tart.

Many thoughts circulated through my head while looking at the recipe for this savory tart last weekend. Two types of mustard, one grainy; leeks and carrots, julienned and steamed; and a filling resembling a quiche. Creme Fraiche is already waiting in the refrigerator. What could the tart possibly taste like? Is mustard going to be the dominant flavor? Dorie says to add according to taste. I was not sure what the taste should be. Then there is the dinner menu; one of my favorite past times, meaning get out old and new recipes to find ideas to match the tart.

An hour later, recipes spread across the couch, ottoman, floor, on top of the cats (they love playing hide-and-seek with loose paper), my menu was assembled on my menu notepad.
I am sticking with Dorie's exact measurements for the ingredient list along with baking the tart shell from page 498 of our French Table cookbook. I am also baking Dorie's Banana Cream Pie out of Dorie's Baking from my home to yours cookbook (I missed the week the banana cream pie was baked in TWD.).

Dinner for Early Evening:
Dorie's recipe of gerard's mustard tart
Feta-Stuffed Shrimp
Sirloin Steaks with Blue Cheese and Mushroom Wine Sauce
Roasted Broccoli w/Herb Lemon Butter
Dories recipe for Banana Cream Pie

Feta-Stuffed Shrimp
(adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen)
8 jumbo shrimp
1/3 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped roasted red pepper
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup butter plus 3 tablespoons, melted and divided
1 large egg yolk, beaten
1/3 cup white wine
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spray a shallow baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
Peel shrimp, leaving tails intact. With a sharp knife, carefully slice the spine of shrimp from head to tail, cutting almost all the way through the shrimp; remove the dark vein, and rinse shrimp. With your fingers, carefully spread apart the shrimp, and flatten the halves on a flat surface. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, parsley, red pepper, garlic, feta, lemon zest, lemon juice, ¼ cup melted butter, and egg yolk; stir well.
Spoon about 1 tablespoon of bread crumb mixture onto each butterflied shrimp, mounding the mixture, if necessary.
Place the stuffed shrimp in prepared dish.
Pour wine and remaining 3 tablespoons melted butter around shrimp in baking dish.
Bake for 20 minutes or until shrimp are pink and firm.
Transfer shrimp to serving plates, and drizzle with pan juices.

Issues along the Way:
*My crust baked up to more of a chocolate brown, just past golden, and I had yet to add my filling. I made a foil circle and covered the edging while baking the tart filling. Worked out perfect.

*I was planning on making this dinner Wednesday night before I realized the tart dough is chilled for 3 hours, assembled and chilled again, then baked and cooled before adding the filling. For pre-planning purposes, the tart shell dough is a breeze for baking the next day.

Verdict: The mustard was not over-powering. We were pleasantly surprised at how mellow the flavor actually was. The crust was crisp and flaky while the filling was firm and moist. We both loved it!

I can not wait to try the mustard tart recipe again with fresh tomatoes. I already bought them to try this weekend.

Dorie's banana cream pie filling was quick and easy to put together. I wasn't sure about the sound of cinnamon with banana but the flavors mingle perfectly. Hubby had two pieces after dinner. Where he fit them, I am not quite sure. =)

We both are up at 4 a.m. so a special dinner can make the long day melt away.

Thank you Dorie for choosing another dish that will not be forgotten in our kitchen.