Sunday, May 30, 2010

A Favorite Food Blog

In my research for new and interesting recipes I read a lot of fine cooks' food blogs and one of my favorites for the past year or so has been The Pioneer Woman Cooks, authored by Ree Drummond.  Ms. Drummond is a city girl who married a cowboy (whom she refers to as "The Marlboro Man") and moved to his cattle ranch in Oklahoma.  How she manages to create such an entertaining blog and cook such excellent dishes with a huge ranch to assist with and four children is beyond me.
I recently purchased her cookbook by the same name and have found it delightful to read.  She describes her life on the ranch, how and why she cooks the way she does and also includes many pictures that she takes herself.  Oh, did I tell you she is a great photographer on top of everything else. 

Anyway, I recently tried one of her recipes for Perfect Potatoes au Gratin and indeed they were.  As The Husband exclaimed after cleaning his plate, "That was some good insert expletive here."  Compliment duly noted!  This makes an excellent side dish with steak or pork chops, though make them small portions of meat because you will want to save room for these delicious potatoes.

Pefect Potatoes au Gratin
(As developed by Ree Drummond)

4 whole Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 Tbsp butter, softened
1½ cup heavy cream
½ cups whole milk
2 Tbsp flour
4 cloves garlic, finely minced  (I only used two cloves in mine)
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 cup sharp Cheddar cheese, freshly grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Smear softened butter all over the bottom of a baking dish.

Slice potatoes, then cut slices into fourths.

In a separate bowl, whisk together cream, milk, flour, minced garlic, salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper.

Place 1/3 of the potatoes in the bottom of the baking dish. Pour 1/3 of the cream mixture over the potatoes.

Repeat this two more times, ending with the cream mixture. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown and really bubbling. Add grated cheese to the top of the potatoes and bake for 3 to 5 more minutes, until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

A Healthy Classic

Dear Readers,
I don't always cook things which contain butter and cream, just most of the time.  Sometimes I actually crave healthy foods like a great salad or some wonderful fruit. 

As part of the Foodbuzz Tastemaker Program, I received 3 full size boxes of different types of Kellogg's All Bran cereals to sample.  One of those was the classic All Bran Original cereal.  I must be honest here - not a big fan of the all bran though I'm sure my GI tract wishes I were.  The Husband got through one box but what to do with the rest, I pondered.
I went to Kellogg's website and found this recipe for the original All-Bran Muffins.  These muffins contain 160 calories apiece and provide 4 grams of the recommended 25 grams of daily fiber us gals need in our diet.  They are a bit on the high side calorie wise but with a banana or an apple, it's certainly an adequate breakfast.  I put 3/4 cups of dried cranberries in mine which will up that calorie content to some degree, but it was worth it for the tart flavor.  Enjoy!

The Original All-Bran Muffins

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups All Bran Cereal
1 1/4 cup fat free milk
1 egg
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3/4 cups dried raisins or cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Prepare 12 muffin tins by spraying with vegetable oil spray. 
Stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, dried fruit and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all bran cereal and milk and let stand for about 2 minutes until cereal softens.  Add egg and oil.  Beat well.  Add flour mixture and stir only until combined.  Portion evenly into the muffin pan cups.  Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Fettucini Alfredo

Some time ago I talked about my wonderful Atlas pasta maker that I found at a garage sale for the amazing price of $5.00.  Recently I found an attachement for making pappardelle pasta which makes the wide ribbons that can be used for lasagne or topped with a thick bolgnese sauce.  I purchased this attachment at a thrift store for the same price and it was clearly marked as shown in the picture below an original price of $20. 

In purusing the Internet today I see the original machines go for $75-$99 new and the attachments start at $35.  I love a good bargain!!  But what good is a bargain if one never uses it, so fresh made pasta was in order today.  The Husband requested Fettucini Alfredo and so I used the pappardelle pasta instead.  Italians would have a fit I'm sure if they saw this, as they are very particular about which pastas go best with which sauces.  We'll never tell though.

Fresh  Egg Pasta Dough

2 cups all purpose flour
2 eggs
2 Tbsp olive oil
Ice water

Put flour in a bowl and make a well.  Add the two eggs and olive oil.  Pinch with your fingers or stir with a fork (my method) until the flour is blended with the eggs and oil.  Add ice water tablespoon by tablespoon until you get a very firm dough.  Knead the dough on a board until elastic and smooth, approximately 2-3 minutes.  Let rest, covered for 30 minutes.  Roll out to the desired shape.  To cook, add to salted, rapidly boiling water and cook for 2-3 minutes only.

Fettucini Sauce
(enough for 4 servings)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (plus more for serving)
2 Tbsp butter
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a heated deep saute pan, heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat.  Add the white wine and reduce by one half.  Add the cream and boil gently until it has reduced by approximately one half and it coats the back of a spoon.  Turn heat down to low.   Add the cheese in small portions allowing it to melt before adding the next addition.  Add the butter and swirl the pan until butter is melted.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the cooked noodles to the sauce and combine.  Serve with some additional cheese if desired.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Fruit Pie for Two

What do you do when you want pie but it's just two of you and a whole pie is just TOO much?  How about some hand pies?  They are just a perfect solution when nothing will do but some  flaky, buttery pie crust with a fresh apple pie filling encased in the middle. 

Here is a recipe that I made up as I went along and the results turned out just fine.  This made a dozen cute little pies (think minature Hostess fruit pies) which will be a nice treat to take to work this week as well as dessert with our Sunday dinner.  Any filling would work but the key to a successful hand pie is not to overload them when putting them together as it makes it very difficult to close them up.  Let your imagination go wild!

Apple Hand Pies

(This makes enough crust for a double crusted pie-I put one half in the freezer for later use)

2 1/2 sticks of cold butter, cut into bite size pieces
1/3 cup cold shortening, cut into bite size pieces
1 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup ice water
1 egg, beaten with a splash of water for coating the outside of the pies
Sanding sugar for sprinkling on crust (Optional)

Pulse flour, sugar and salt together in food processor fitted with the steel blade.  Add the butter and shortening and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of small peas.  Slowly add the ice water until the mixture comes together in a clump.

Put out onto floured board and knead slightly and form two even sized balls. Press into flat discs and put in fridge for at least 30 minutes or freeze for future use.

Apple Filling
(Enough for 1 dozen apple hand pies)

2 Granny Smith apples, cut into a small dice
2 Tbsp sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon

Mix together and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out the crust and cut with a 4 or 5 inch cookie cutter.  Set each disc on cookie sheet and put approximately 1 Tbsp. of filling in the center of each circle.  Pull one side of circle over to the other edge and crimp with your fingers or the tines of a fork.   Brush lightly with egg wash then sprinkle on sugar. Bake for 15-18 minutes until pies are a light golden brown.  Cool completely.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day

To my beloved mother and my wonderful mother-in-law and all the mothers I know and love, I wish you a beautiful day surrounded by those you cherish.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Finger Licking Goodness

I love chicken wings.  They are the part of the chicken that most people toss aside out of their "buckets" or disregard as they are carving the Sunday roasted bird.  Not me.  I go for the wings first.  Granted, there is not much meat on them but what meat there is tends to be far more flavorful and succulent then any thigh or drumstick.

One thing I had never made despite my love of them was baked chicken wings so when I spotted this recipe in the Oregonian newspaper I just knew I had to try it.  It combines the wonderful Thai flavor combination of sweet, sour, salty and spicy into a glorious glaze.  It was very simple to put together and there was no fussing once the wings were in the oven.

The results was a fragrant, sticky, moist chicken wing that was utterly addictive.  The recipe calls for two pounds of wings, but since it was just The Husband and I devouring these, I cut the recipe in half.  The proportions I give you are as it was in the original recipe. The other thing I added was a clove of finely minced garlic because it just felt right to me.  I served them over a bed of slighly sweet coconut rice which was a delicious compliment to the wings.  I will blog about the rice another time.  Enjoy!

Sticky Chicken Wings

3/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 1 inch piece fresh ginger, crushed with the flat side of a knife blade and peeled (I minced mine)
2 finely minced garlic cloves (optional)
1 jalapeno chile, halfed lengthwise, seeded and chopped.  (I left the seeds in mine)
2 pounds chicken wings, cut in half at joint (wing tips removed)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  In a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, whisk together brown sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice and soy sauce until sugar dissolves, about two minutes.  Add ginger, chile and chicken wings; toss to coat.  Arrange wings in a single layer in baking dish.
Bake wings for one hour.  Increase heat to 450 degrees and bake until sauce is reduced and wings are glazed, about 30-35 minutes (watch closely), turning wings occasionally.