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Archive for April, 2010

Cornbread

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010

I didn’t mention this in my scone post, but I am not a baker.  Most of my attempts at baking have been miserable failures, but I keep trying.  I am determined to figure out this whole baking thing!

Last night, I attempted cornbread, and I was very happy with the results.  The cornbread turned out very light and moist, just as the recipe promised.  I don’t have a cast iron skillet, so I took Cooks Illustrated’s advice and used their “corn muffin” recipe and baked the mixture in an 8X8 square baking pan.

Corn Muffins (Adapted from Cooks Illustrated The Best Recipe Soups and Stews)

1 3/4 c yellow cornmeal

1/2 c all-purpose flour

1/2 c sugar

3/4 tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 c. rapidly boiling water

1 1/4 c buttermilk

2 large eggs, beaten lightly

2 tbsp butter, melted (the recipe called for unsalted butter, but I used salted)

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.  Coat the baking pan with cooking spray.

Measure 1/2 cup of the cornmeal into a medium bowl.  In another bowl, combine the remaining cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.  Set aside this mixture.

Pour 1/3 cup of the boiling water into the bowl with 1/2 cup of cornmeal.  Stir quickly to combine.  Continue adding water, one tablespoon at a time, until the cornmeal and water become a thick mush.  I used 8 tablespoons.

Gradually whisk in the buttermilk, breaking up any lumps.  Whisk in the eggs.

Stir the dry ingredients into the mush mixture until just moistened.  Stir in the melted butter.

Fill the baking pan with the cornbread batter.

Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven to cool for about 5 minutes.

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Coconut Black Rice

Monday, April 26th, 2010

I was flipping through a cookbook a few months ago, and I was intrigued by a recipe for black rice.  According to the introduction to the recipe, black rice has a sweet, nutty flavor and is rick in iron and fiber.  I filed the idea away as a “recipe I’d like to try.”

A few weeks later, I was in an Asian supermarket in Denver and picked up a bag of the so-called Forbidden Black Rice.  After a few more months of stalling, I finally got up the nerve to try this recipe.

The rice turned a deep purple color during the cooking process, and the final product was delicious.  True to the recipe’s introduction, the rice was a little on the sweet side and had a deep nutty flavor.

Coconut Black rice (Adapted from Nourish)

1 tbsp unsalted butter

1/2 of a yellow onion, diced

1/2 of a yellow bell pepper, diced

1/2 of a red bell pepper, diced

1 c Chinese black rice

1 c chicken broth

1 can light coconut milk

1/2 tsp salt

pepper

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Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onions and both bell peppers, and saute until the onions are translucent.

Add the rice, broth, and coconut milk to the pan, and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce the heat to low.  Cook until all the liquid is absorbed, about 25 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

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Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream

Sunday, April 25th, 2010

When I was a kid, I just assumed that I didn’t like Brussels sprouts.  My family never ate this mysterious vegetable, so I just thought that like all those kids on TV that were threatened by these awful green things, that I would never eat them.

Clearly I had an unfounded hatred of a vegetable I had never eaten, and I’ve grown pretty fond of Brussels sprouts over the past few years.  The following recipe is pretty tasty, but it’s not the healthiest recipe I’ve ever tried.  It went really well with the steak au poivre and twice baked potatoes though!

Brussels Sprouts Braised in Cream (Adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

1 lb smal Brussels sprouts

1 c heavy cream

salt

pepper

freshly grated nutmeg

Remove any discolored leaves from the Brussels sprouts.  Trim the stem ends with a knife.

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Bring the Brussels sprouts, cream, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes.  I stirred the mixture after 5 minutes to make sure the sprouts were evenly distributed.  After 10 minutes check to see if the sprouts are tender:  a knife tip inserted into the center of a sprout should not meet any resistance.  I cooked mine for a total of 15 minutes.

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Season with pepper and nutmeg.  Serve and enjoy!

If you would like the cream sauce to be a little thicker, the original recipe suggests transferring the sprouts to the oven to warm while continuing to simmer the sauce until it thickens, about 5 minutes.  When I made these, the cream sauce thickened significantly on the stove, so I skipped this step.

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Twice Baked Potatoes

Monday, April 19th, 2010

To me, the only side dish for a good steak is an equally delicious potato.  Mashed, au gratin, baked- it doesn’t really matter to me; I love potatoes, so I’m not very picky.  When I recently suggested we have steak for dinner, my husband suggested twice baked potatoes as a side dish.

In the past, the twice baked potatoes I’ve made have been pretty dry.  When I tried this recipe, I was very happy with the results.  The potatoes were very moist, and the taste was fantastic

Blue Cheese and Chive Twice Baked Potatoes (adapted from Simply Recipes)

4 large russet potatoes

Olive Oil

1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon cream

1 cup crumbled blue cheese

1/4 cup chopped chives

salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Poke each potato with a fork and coat the potatoes with olive oil.  Place the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.

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Once the potatoes are cooled, slice the top third of the potato off lengthwise.  Using a spoon, coop out the insides, leaving about 1/4 inch of potato on the skin.

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In a bowl, mix the inside of the potatoes with the sour cream, milk, cream, and butter in a bowl.  Mash with a potato masher.  Mix in the blue cheese and chives.  Spoon the fillings into the potato shells.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Bake the potatoes on a roasting pan for 20 minutes.

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Steak au Poivre

Sunday, April 18th, 2010

My parents called while I was making dinner a few days ago.  When I told my dad what I was making, he told me to hold dinner; he could be here in about 3 hours if he left for the airport right away.

I don’t make steak very often, so the following recipe was a real treat.

Steak Au Poivre (adapted from the Way the Cookie Crumbles)

1/2 stick unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, minced

1 cup beef broth

3/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup cream

1/4 cup brandy + 1 tablespoon

1 teaspoon lemno juice

4 strip steaks, 10 oz each

salt

1 tablespoon black peppercorns, crushed

Heat 1 tablespoon of utter in a heavy skillet over medium heat.  Add the shallot and cook until the shallot is softened.  This should take about two minutes.  Add the broths and increase the heat to high.  Reduce the mixture to about 1/2 cup, about 10 minutes.  Set the reduced mixture aside.

Sprinkle both sides of each steak with salt.  Rub one side of each steak with the peppercorns.  Press the peppercorns into the steaks.

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Heat a skillet over medium heat until hot, about 5 minutes.  Lay the steak, un-peppered side down, in the skillet.  Increase the heat to medium-high and press down on the steaks with the bottom of a cake pan.  Cook the steaks without moving until browned, about 6 minutes.  Flip the steaks and cook the peppered side, about 4 minutes longer for medium-rate.  Transfer the steaks to a cutting board and tent with foil to warm.

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In the pan used to cook the steaks, add the reduced broth, cream, 1/4 cup of brandy and cream.  Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Scrape the bottom of the pan with a spoon to loosen the browned bits.  Simmer until deep brown and thickened, about 10 minutes.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the remaining butter, brandy, lemon juice, and any meat juices.

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Set a steak on each plate and spoon a portion of the sauce over each steak.  I served this with brussels sprouts and twice baked potatoes.

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Maple Oatmeal Scones

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

When I was in college, I used to make a special trip to the Otter Creek Bakery to sample their Honey Cornmeal Scone.  Thus my love affair with scones began.  Though I’ve never found a recipe to rival the Otter Creek Bakery’s scones, I am always willing to try a new scone recipe.  The following recipe is a new favorite!

Maple Oatmeal Scone (Adapted from the Way the Cookie Crumbles)

Scones:

1 3/4 c. all purpose flour

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/2 c quick cooking oats

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tbsp granulate sugar

1 tsp salt

2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1/4 c cold buttermilk

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Glaze:

1/2 c confectioners sugar

1/4 c maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Combine the flours, oats, baking powder and salt in a bowl.  I combined these ingredients in a stand mixer with the the paddle attachment.

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Blend in the cold butter at the lowest speed and mix until the butter is pea-sized pieces.  Combine the buttermilk, the syrup, and the eggs.  Quickly add the buttermilk to the flour and butter mixture.  The dough will be a little sticky.

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Flour a counter or a cutting board.  Place the dough on the floured surface.  Coat a rolling pin and your hands in flour, and roll the dough out to about 3/4 of an inch.

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Cut the dough into 3 inch rounds with a cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Lightly knead the scraps together and cut more scones.

I don’t have a 3 inch round cutter, so I actually used a pint glass we had on hand.  I floured the edges of the glass before cutting the dough, and the glass worked great in a pinch.

Bake the scones for 20 to 25 minutes until the tops are crisp.  Instead of a baking sheet, I actually placed the scones on a pizza pan and placed the pan on top of our pizza stone.

While the scones are baking, make the glaze by combining the confectioners sugar, maple syrup and vanilla.  Once the scones are done, cool for 5 minutes and top each scone with 1 tablespoon of the glaze.

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I made these scones and put them in a tupperware container.  We ate the scones for about a week for breakfast.  They were delicious!

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Chicken Alfredo Lasagna

Friday, April 16th, 2010

I love lasagna, but my husband was a little hesitant when I suggested this recipe.  He has since decided this is one of his favorite lasagna recipes.

The original recipe called for fresh lasagna noodles and bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, but I used store bought noodles and boneless skinless chicken.  I cooked the noodles according to the package instructions, and I had enough noodles and filling for an 8×11 pan of lasagna.

Chicken, Mushroom, and Spinach Alfredo Lasagna (adapted from The Way the Cookie Crumbles)

1 tsp vegetable oil

1 lb chicken breasts

4 tbsp unsalted butter

8 oz button mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 large shallots, finely chopped

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 c flour

3 1/2 c milk

black pepper

salt

1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg

4 oz spinach, sliced into 1/4 in ribbons

1 1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

1 package lasagna noodles (regular, not “no boil noodles”)

Picture 013Heat the oven to 450 degrees.  Heat a small oven safe skillet over medium heat. (I used a Dutch oven).  Add the oil and chicken breasts.  Cook the chicken for 5 minutes on one side until browned, about 5 minutes.  Turn the chicken over, and move the pan to the oven.  Roast the chicken in the oven until an instant read thermometer reads 160 degrees.  (Since I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts, I also added a cup of chicken broth to the pan before placing it in the oven.)  Remove the chicken from the oven, and once the chicken has cooled, shred the chicken with your fingers or two forks.

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Decrease the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are slightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add the shallots and cook for another 3 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

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Add the flour and stir frequently with a wooden spoon.  Cook for about a minute, until slightly thickened.

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Whisking constantly, add the milk slowly, and continue to to cook for about 7 minutes.  The sauce should thicken slightly.  Add salt, pepper, the  nutmeg, spinach and half of the Parmesan cheese.  Cook for about 3 minutes and add the chicken.  Remove from heat and adjust seasoning to taste.

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Spray an 8×11 baking pan with nonstick spray.  Spread 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of the dish.  Try to avoid large chunks of chicken.  Top with a layer of noodles (I used 3 noodles).  Continue to alternate sauce and noodles until you run out of noodles.  I was able to make five layers.  Top with the remaining sauce and the Parmesan cheese.

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Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.  Remove the foil and continue to bake for another 20 minutes.

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We ate this with a nice salad.  Enjoy!

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Chicken Salad

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Recently, I have had a hankering for chicken salad.  I’m not sure why I love chicken salad so much, but every so often, I have to have it.

This recipe is one of my new favorite chicken salad recipes.

Chicken Salad Contessa (adapted from Food Network)

2 Split Chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)

2 cups chicken broth

Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper

1/2 cup pecan halves

1/2 cup walnut halves

1/2 cup mayonnaise (Hellmann’s Olive Oil Mayonnaise)

1/2 cup sour cream

1 tbsp tarragon leaves

1 cup red grapes, halved

Place the chicken breasts in a pan with the chicken broth.  Cook over medium high heat for 20 minutes.  Cut the chicken into cubes.  Return to pan with olive oil, salt and pepper.

Picture 098Cook the chicken for an additional five minutes.  Remove from the heat, and put the chicken in a bowl to cool.

The original recipe called for toasting the pecans and walnuts, but out of sheer laziness I decided to skip this step.  Instead, I just chopped the wanuts, pecans, and grapes.  I bought too many pecans, so I used about 3/4 c. pecans and 1/4 c. walnuts.

Picture 100Once the chicken is cooled, mix the chicken, nuts, and grapes with the mayo, sour cream, and tarragon.

I served the chicken salad as a sandwich with spinach and cheese.

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Hot Dog Buns

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I’m not going to lie.  When my husband suggested we have bratwurst for lunch yesterday, I was a little worried.  It’s not that I dislike bratwurst– that is far from the truth.  What I dislike most about making bratwurst is picking out buns.

I stood in the bread aisle for about twenty minutes before picking out an option to try.  I feel like I’ve tried every hot dog bun carried in our local supermarket, all with disappointing results.

My husband’s favorite type of bun is the New England Style.  I enjoy these as well,  but unfortunately, they are impossible to find in the great state of Colorado.

New England Hot DogSo, we’ve had to improvise.  We generally use whole wheat buns, and I think we’ve tried every available brand from our local supermarkets.

Sara Lee Soft and Smooth Wheat buns:  These buns were tasty, but when toasted in the oven, they fell apart.  These were the perfect size for hot dogs, but they were on the small side for bratwurst.

Whole Foods Whole Wheat Buns:  I hate to say this since I generally like Whole Foods’ products, but these buns were pretty bad.  They were dry to begin with, but once toasted, they were completely dried out.  I thought these would be great, but I was very disappointed.

Our new favorite, though, is the Oroweat 100% Whole Grain Whole Wheat bun.

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These buns were delicious, and they maintained their shape and structure once toasted in the oven.  I think we’ll use these hot dog buns for the foreseeable future.

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Simple Pleasures

Sunday, April 11th, 2010

Funny how moving kind of got in the way of cooking and posting.  Now that we’re finished with the moving process, I’ve been experimenting in my new kitchen.

Today is one of the first nice days of spring, and my husband and I decided to grill on our new deck.  I wasn’t planning on posting this meal because it’s pretty simple, but in the end, I decided simple isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

Today’s lunch consisted of bratwurst, mac n cheese, and tater tots.  It was delicious.  I used my dad’s cooking method, which has always been a favorite.

Bill’s Brats

6 Bratwurst (I used Boulder Sausage’s Beer Bratwurst)

3 12 oz. cans beer (Dale’s Pale Ale!)

1 Onion, sliced thin

6 Hot Dog Buns

Add the onion, beer and bratwurst to a large pot.  I used Oskar Blue’s Dale’s Pale Ale, one of our Colorado favorites.  I thought the hoppy flavor of Dale’s Pale would complement the flavor of the bratwurst, and I’m happy to say I was pleased with the results.

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Slowly bring to a simmer.  Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes or so.

In the meantime, start the coals for a charcoal grill.

After the bratwurst have simmered for 30 minutes, cook on the grill.  On a hot grill, they will not take long, about 5 minutes per side.

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My husband cooked the brats on the grill while I toasted the buns.  I placed the buns on the middle oven rack in a 450 degree oven.   After about a minute, I removed the buns from the oven.

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