Thursday, October 29, 2009

Whole Grain Parsnip Cookies with Maple Glaze

I like to pretend that there is such a thing as a healthy cookie. As if, by consuming an unmentionable amount of oatmeal raisin cookies, I am really just doing my good duty of getting the proper fiber intake for the day. Or (when I am alone so no one can witness it) while eating an entire sleeve of Girl Scout Thin Mints, I imagine that chocolate is good for the heart and mint is a natural digestive. Right?

These pretty parsnip cookies were invented by yours truly because I want to continue the healthy cookie delusion and because I had all the ingredients on hand which I suspect was cookie fate at work. Whole wheat, quinoa, oats...what more do you need? This cookie is on the cakey side of the spectrum, quite tender, but with great texture from the grains.

I'm a BIG parsnip fan. I think they are an underrated vegetable and a nice change from the more often eaten sweet potato, carrot, or squash. I served them roasted at dinner the other night and all my pals were so pleased with them, I might just do a post about those in the near future as well.

For 2½ dozen cookies:

  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ¾ cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup, lightly packed finely grated peeled parsnip
  • Maple Glaze*
Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

In the bowl of a mixer, add the butter and brown sugar. Beat until fluffy. With the mixer running, add the eggs, one at a time, then add the vanilla.

In a separate bowl, stir together the flours, quinoa, oats, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and allspice. With the mixer running on low, alternate adding the flour mixture and the buttermilk until incorporated. Mix in the parsnips.

Drop the dough in heaping tablespoons onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake in the center of the oven for 11-13 minutes so that the edges are just golden. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

*Meanwhile, make the glaze. In a bowl, stir together 1 cup sifted powdered sugar and a ¼ cup of maple syrup until creamy. Set the cookies onto a piece of wax paper and spoon about a teaspoon of glaze onto the center of each cooled cookie. Allow to set, and then store in a tightly covered container for up to 3 days.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Simple Chocolate Cake for the 100th Post!

Back in January when I started this blog, I wasn't sure what to expect or how well I would do with this adventure. Before I even started I realized it would be a pretty big undertaking. I kept telling myself that I cooked, baked and canned all the time; a blog would essentially be taking it a step further by photographing and writing down what I did. So, I just sort of dove in and it has become an integral part of my life. Most of the time I love it, a couple times (okay, more than that) I've resented having to do one more thing on top of work and home life. It causes me stress and happiness and a sense of accomplishment all at once.

When I have scraped recipe failures into the garbage, felt like I couldn't come up with a single good idea to blog about, or simply have wanted to take a break, I remind myself that I started this in the depths of a Minnesota winter so I could refocus the creativity that I felt like I had lost and have a hobby while the snow and ice and wind swirled around outside.

Having a blog and realizing that people all over the world look at it on a regular basis is both an odd and giddy feeling. I get to wonder, for example, why people in the Middle East tend to look at my Cornflake Bars pretty regularly (seriously, why?). But really, thanks to all of you who have left me so many kind comments. I appreciate it very much and love knowing that there are so many fellow cooks out there.

I thought it fitting that for my 100th (!) blog post, I would present you with a celebratory cake. Here's the thing: A chocolate anything is last on my list of desserts that I make or order. I felt, however, that I wanted a chocolate cake in my repertoire that I could bake on the fly without too much fuss. I wanted to develop a cake recipe that was simple and memorable. I didn't want it in the style of a Devil's food cake, but instead imagined it more dense so that a small, lovely slice would suffice.

I don't like flourless chocolate cake or molten chocolate cake very much but I set various cookbooks on my counter turned to those exact recipes and wondered how I could make something new that would please my picky chocolate cake palate. I fully expected a number of cake disasters but really, it wasn't so bad at all. The top of this cake (which was a happy accident) is the standout: it's flaky, crisp and beautiful while enclosing the rich interior.

  • 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon amaretto

Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line the bottom with a piece of parchment and then butter that as well.

Add the chocolate chips to a glass bowl and set the bowl over a pot of simmering water, not allowing the bowl to touch the water. Whisk occasionally until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In the bowl of a mixer, add the butter and sugar and beat until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the Amaretto. On low speed, add the flour. Add the melted chocolate and mix until thoroughly combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 55-60 minutes. The cake is done when the top of it feels springy when lightly pressed. The cake will have risen dramatically in the oven, but as it cools, it will sink down. Allow it to cool on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature. Sift a light dusting of powdered sugar over the top.

The cake will keep for several days and is actually better the day after it is made. Serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or whipped cream if you like.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Caramelized Balsamic Red Onions

Sometimes I wonder if I need a separate refrigerator just to hold condiments. In fact, I have posted 18 condiment recipes on this blog alone. I find that if I have an arsenal of condiments on hand, I have a pretty easy time whipping up some good eats. And so, I made space in my fridge to hold a jar of these red onions which are pure sweet and savory goodness.

This recipe stems from my love of caramelized onions and the amazing depth that they add to so many dishes. They were the perfect compliment to a grilled lamb steak we had for dinner. I also imagine they would be fantastic spooned into a bowl of creamy squash soup or as part of a cheese plate. I may take a stab at making some puff pastry tarts with the onions and some gorgonzola.

Although it takes a while to make this, the level of effort is quite low. The onions benefit from the low, slow heat and turn amazingly sweet. Please don't use just any old balsamic in this. The vinegar needs to be smooth, without any harshness, to add that final layer of flavor to the jam.

For about 2 cups:

  • 3 large red onions, peeled, both ends trimmed
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons packed, light brown sugar
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar

Quarter the onions, cutting each quarter into 1/2-inch thick slices.

In a dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Add the onions and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes.

Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the brown sugar, thyme, salt and cayenne. Stir to coat the onions. Allow to cook, stirring occasionally for 1 hour.

Remove the thyme stems. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and turn the heat back up to medium-high. Cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes. Pack the jam into sterilized, sealable jars, pressing down on the jam with a spoon to remove any air bubbles and store in the refrigerator for up to 10 days.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Crispy Overnight Waffles

Before I was invited over to Guestblogger Eric's house for brunch, I was completely unaware how delicious a waffle could be. The crisp outer texture was in contrast to the almost melting interior and I knew that I would be ruined for any other waffle from that moment forward. Thanks to Eric for this great post and for sharing this recipe with all of us! --A Crafty Lass

For his birthday, ten years ago, I got my partner a waffle iron. He is an expert pancake maker, and regularly makes me fluffy buttermilk pancakes. Since I didn’t want this to turn into a gift that was really for me, I told him that I would be the one in charge of the waffles in our life.

I experimented with many different recipes, finally settling upon a variation from Julee Rosso’s & Sheila Lukins’s “The New Basics.” Their recipe yields a classic buttermilk waffle, which is golden and tangy, and has a touch of whole-wheat flour—a great foil for maple syrup. We ate these, very happily, for years.

But our waffle lives changed forever when I tried Mark Bittman’s recipe for yeasted overnight waffles in “How to Cook Everything.” These waffles were a revelation: incredibly crispy and feather light. The only downside was that they felt too much like dessert to me because they called for vanilla, white sugar and white flour.

My current recipe is a hybrid of the two recipes, which makes them light and crispy but still retains some of the earthiness. When autumn arrives I look forward to getting the waffle iron out and making more birthday presents for my man. (And me. Let’s be honest, it was a present for both of us.)

For 5 or 6 waffles:

  • ½ teaspoon instant yeast
  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Canola, or other neutral oil for brushing on waffle iron
  • 2 eggs

Before going to bed, combine the dry ingredients and stir in the milk, then the butter. The mixture will be loose. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in your oven with the oven light on.

In the morning, brush the waffle iron lightly with oil and preheat it. Separate the eggs and stir the yolks into the batter. Beat the whites until they hold soft peaks. Stir them gently into the batter. Do not overmix. It’s okay if there are clouds of whites that are not integrated into the mixture.

Spread a ladleful or so of batter onto the waffle iron and bake until done. It’s best if you serve them immediately, but if you can’t do that, they’ll keep in the oven for a few minutes.

Serve with maple syrup. And for heaven’s sake, make sure the syrup is hot.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Roasted Squash with Pepper Jelly Glaze

Long ago I saw a recipe in Martha Stewart Living for roasted Delicata squash wedges glazed with hot pepper jelly which intrigued me. I love that name - "Delicata" and I really like the idea of using pepper jelly in unusual ways such as this. I don't have much familiarity with Delicata squash but I was reminded of the recipe when I saw this variety at the store the other day. I searched through all of my Martha clippings but wasn't able to find the recipe so I set out to recreate it anyway.

Delicata squash is the perfect squash for roasting because its thin skin and soft, sweet potato-like flesh cooks up beautifully. I roasted the wedges on a foil-lined baking sheet because I was concerned that the jelly glaze would make a mess. I am glad I took that precaution because indeed it did.

The pepper jelly imparts a subtle heat to the squash and the garlic, along with the chive garnish, takes this side dish from being sweet to savory.

For 8 Servings:
  • 3 pounds of Delicata squash
  • 4 tablespoons hot pepper jelly
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

Cut each squash into 8 wedges, scraping the seeds out with a spoon.

In a small saucepan over low heat, stir together the jelly, garlic, and butter until melted. Place the squash wedges, skin side down, on the prepared pan and liberally brush the glaze over it. Generously sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Place in the center of the oven and roast for 45 minutes.

Sprinkle with the chives and serve immediately.

Adapted from a recipe in Martha Stewart Living.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Spicy Calvados Applesauce

Applesauce is one of those things that is so simple to make at home that it should be scratched off your grocery list for good. It goes without saying that homemade sauce is far superior to store-bought, particularly because of the complexity created by using different apple varieties, spices and flavors.

As I detailed in my apple chips post, I find apples and five-spice powder to be a match made in heaven. It works as a mysterious, subtle spice in applesauce also but feel free to substitute cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

I love the deluxe addition of the French apple brandy, Calvados. It imparts a richness without any overt alcohol flavor. Calvados is so good in so many things: pork dishes, whipped cream, brushed onto an apple tart, and so on. It's on the spendy side but I find that I use it sparingly so my bottle has lasted for quite a while.

If you don't want to go through the trouble of canning the applesauce, it can be portioned out into freezer bags or containers and frozen, for up to 6 months.

For about 5 pints:

  • 8 pounds apples (I used a combination of Haralson, Gala and Prairie Spy)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 - 1½ cups sugar
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • 1/3 cup Calvados

Peel and cut the apples into 2-inch chunks and add them to a large pot. Zest and juice the lemon over the apples.

Over medium-high heat, add the water and one cup of the sugar to the pot with the apples. Stir frequently until the apples are soft, about 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to low and mash the apples with a potato masher until the desired consistency is reached. Stir in the five-spice powder, sea salt, and Calvados. Taste, and add up to a half cup more sugar depending on the desired level of sweetness. Stirring frequently to prevent scorching, raise the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Allow it to boil for one minute, stirring constantly, and then remove from the heat.

Have five sterilized pint canning jars ready. Fill the jars, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Run a plastic knife down the center of the jar and around the inside to remove any air bubbles. Process the jars in a lightly boiling water bath canner (about 200 degrees) for 20 minutes. Remove the jars from the water and set aside to cool for 24 hours before storing in a cool, dark location for up to a year.

For complete sterilization and canning procedures, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pork, Potato & Tomatillo Stew

The other morning, the dogs woke me up early. I stumbled downstairs, opened the door to the backyard and stared at snow. Snow on the ground, snow on the trees, snow falling from the sky, but most importantly, snow covering my vegetable garden. This did not make me happy.

I put on a layered ensemble of mismatched, semi-warm clothing that made me look completely insane and headed outside to save my tomatillos. I pulled as many of them as I could and got about 10 cups worth. Once back inside, I searched through the pantry, fridge and freezer and came up with this stew which I cooked in my slow-cooker. I've made it twice now and I absolutely love it.

My slow-cooker is the large oval variety and the ingredients for this stew fills it up almost to the top. I cut my piece of pork in half lengthwise and that fit inside the pot perfectly. The first time I made this it was mildly spicy but the second time it was much hotter which tells me that the heat level of my poblanos was all over the place. To control the heat, taste the peppers after roasting them and add more or less seeds and peppers as desired.

To serve 6-8:

  • 5-6 medium-sized poblano peppers
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1¾ pounds boneless pork shoulder, trimmed of fat
  • 1½ pounds tomatillos, papery husks removed, rinsed, and halved or quartered if large
  • 3 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch size chunks
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1½ cups chicken broth
  • Grated zest of 1 lime
  • Garnishes: lime wedges, avocado, sour cream

Broil the peppers, turning often, until blackened on all sides. Place the peppers in a plastic bag and seal. Set aside for 10 minutes. Remove the peppers and peel or scrape the skin off with a knife. Cut the stems off and chop the peppers. Set aside.

In a slow-cooker, spread the onions in the bottom of the pot. Place the pork on the onions and scatter the potatoes, peppers, garlic, and tomatillos over the top. Sprinkle the cumin, salt and lime zest over the stew. Pour the broth over everything. Cover and cook on low for 7 hours.

Remove the pork to a cutting board and with two forks, shred it into bite-sized chunks. Return the pork to the slow-cooker and stir the stew, breaking up the tomatillos with a spoon. Taste and add more salt if needed. Serve in bowls garnished with lime wedges, avocados and sour cream.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Chai Tea Concentrate

Nothing irks me more lately than forking over $4 at the coffee shop for a Chai Tea Latte that requires the minuscule effort of pouring refrigerated chai concentrate into a cup and topping it with frothy milk. Seeing that I'm the fool that pays the $4 on a regular basis, I decided to revolt!

Luckily, making my own concentrate turned out to be an easy and even desirable task because boiling and steeping the tea perfumed my whole house with its warm spiciness. There is a lot of room for improvisation with this and I can see playing up certain notes depending on personal preference. Same goes for the sweetener - just remember that this recipe is for a concentrate so the flavors need to be strong.

I really love star anise and I discovered a cost-saving tip regarding this pretty spice. If you go to the grocery store and buy star anise you will pay a ridiculous amount. However, if you have access to an Asian grocer, they sell star anise on the cheap albeit in large quantities. It will force you to think up new ways to use it which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The same goes for cinnamon sticks...head to a Mexican grocer and stock up for far less than you would pay elsewhere.

If a frother doesn't exist in your kitchen, this problem can be easily remedied by heading to IKEA and throwing down a mere two bucks for this. Frothy milk really does complete the homemade Chai Tea Latte experience.

For about 3 cups of concentrate:

  • 3½ cups water
  • ½ cup agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 star anise
  • ¼ teaspoon anise seeds
  • 8 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, sliced (there's no need to peel it)
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 4 bags Darjeeling tea

Combine all the ingredients except the tea in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and allow to strongly simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pan and allow to steep for 20 minutes. Add the teabags, cover the pan again, and steep for 20 minutes more.

Strain the concentrate into a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for about a week.

To make a latte:

Stir together 1 cup milk to ½ cup concentrate (more or less to taste) and heat in a saucepan or in the microwave. Use a frother to whip up the milk and serve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Pasta with Kale, Sausage & Cream

The cool October weather has no effect on my Lacinato Kale plants. This is the first year we've grown Kale and I am officially a convert. Besides the fact that kale is so healthy to eat, it is a beautiful plant: deep blue green and almost prehistoric looking. The plants are about 4-feet tall now and I have plans in the near future to blanch and freeze all the leaves so I can eat it throughout the winter months.

You may be suspicious at how much kale 6 large leaves actually looks like but have no fear for it cooks down quite a bit. The bitterness of the kale along with the spicy sausage and the sweetness of the cream makes for a satisfying and indulgent fall dinner.

I normally don't give wine suggestions but the wine we drank with this pasta was so right on, it deserves to be passed on to you. It was a 2007 di Lenardo Vineyards Pinot Bianco which retailed for around $14. It cut right through the cream and spiciness and delivered clear, refreshing notes of fruit while still being quite crisp.

To serve 4-6:

  • 1 pound pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 hot Italian sausages, removed from casing (about 3/4 of a pound)
  • 6 large leaves Lacinato Kale, center ribs discarded
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, chopped
  • Parmesan Cheese, for garnishing

Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the pasta. Cook according to the package directions, reserving half a cup of pasta water before the pasta is drained.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and when hot, add the garlic. Stir for 30 seconds then add the sausage and break up the meat as it is being cooked. Cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.

While the sausage is cooking, roughly chop the kale into large, bite-sized pieces. Add it to the pan with the sausage in batches, stirring frequently, adding additional kale as it cooks down. When all the kale is incorporated, cook the mixture for about 3-4 minutes more.

Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until the liquid is reduced by half. Turn the heat down to medium, add the cream and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the basil and season to taste with kosher salt.

Toss the pasta with the sausage mixture and reserved pasta water, if needed. Spoon the pasta into bowls and garnish with slices of shaved Parmesan.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cider Mustard

When I started this blog earlier this year, I did a post for Guinness Mustard that originated from Saveur Magazine. Not only was I enthusiastic about making my own mustard, but the friends I gave it to were asking for more which is always a clear indicator of success.

This version is a seasonal spin on the original recipe, incorporating Hard Cider (which I love this time of year), cider vinegar, a hint of honey and a little extra cinnamon to play up the apple undertones. A turkey, apple, and white cheddar sandwich spread with this mustard couldn't be more tasty.

Making mustard is a simple task and since I'm such a big proponent of all things homemade, I want to get in the habit of whipping up batches of it more often. It lasts for 6 months in the fridge and I store it in either 4-ounce or 8-ounce canning jars.
For about 31⁄2 cups:
  • 1 12-oz. bottle hard cider such as Woodchuck
  • 1 cup brown mustard seeds
  • 1⁄2 cup yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
Whisk together all the ingredients in a large glass bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside at room temperature for a day or so.

Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a food processor and blend very thoroughly for several minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl a couple times as you blend. The mixture will thicken and emulsify.

Spoon the mustard into several clean jars and refrigerate.