Saturday, December 12, 2009

More Treats and Things

I love me some Cap'n Crunch. I am not a cereal eater though. I'm more of a white toast for breakfast kind of person, so Christmas is the one time of the year when I get my fix of the Cap'n. I make rice krispy treats, but substitute Cap'n Crunch Crunch Berries for the Rice Krispies. The recipe is on the back of the mini marshmallow package. I cut them small so that they are just a bite or two. I like to leave 'em wanting more.

Now on to some real cookies. I was babysitting my nephew one day and my mom suggested that I bake cookies with him. I must have expressed that I didn't think he would be interested in the process because my mom said something like "you don't have to make them from scratch, she's got cookie dough in the freezer." So I checked out the freezer and there it was. A box of pre-formed cookies. You just take the amount that you want, pop them in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Yummy homemade cookies.

I thought about this frozen cookie dough idea and how genius it was. Me and The Captain (not Crunch) cannot eat a full batch of cookies. Try as we might, we either get bored with them, or they get too dry after they have been sitting around for a couple of weeks. I thought I could freeze cookies like I freeze berries during the summer. So I tried it. I made a batch of chocolate chip cookie dough and portioned it out on waxed paper. Then I put the cookie sheets in the freezer overnight.

The next day I had frozen cookie balls. I portioned them out into little bags. 12 cookie balls per bag. Then I tossed them into the freezer.

I then baked some to see if I needed to make any adjustment because they were frozen. I wanted mini-cookies, so I cut the frozen balls in half, put them on a sheet pan, and put them in the oven as soon as it was preheated. I cooked them for about 8 minutes at 375 degrees. They took less time than regular cookies because they were smaller.

Here's the finished product. I didn't notice any difference in taste due to the freezing.

Yay to having fresh cookies whenever I want in just 8 short minutes.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Whole Is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts (Chocolate Coated Heath Encrusted Pretzels)

I was watching last night's Top Chef and one of the judges said "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts" about one of Kevin's dishes. I was thinking, "I know a recipe like that" which is actually timely because this is one of The Captains holiday cookies. If you invite him over to your house during the holidays, chances are good that he will bring you a cellophane bag of full these bad boys. I remember the first year we were together baking cookies for the holidays, thinking that these were a little to plebeian for my taste, as I tend to like my recipes complicated. But these guys, for all of their store-bought-assembled-cheap-ingredientness, are really good. Like can't stop eating them good. And simple to make.
Melt a half of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips. Nuke em for about a minute, give em a stir, and give them another 30 seconds or so.

Then take mini pretzels, hold them by one of the top loops...

...dip them in the melted chocolate...

...then put the chocolate side into a bowl of Heath bits (available in the baking section by the chocolate chips)...

...and lay them on some foil or parchment paper until the chocolate hardens back up.
The funny thing is, is that I am not really a Heath person either. But when you mix all of these guys together, you get some kind of salty, sweet, buttery, yeasty creation that is seriously hard to resist.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Herb Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This is another one of those use up what I got around the house/garden recipes. I started by grabbing some sage, green onion, and parsley out of the garden. I chopped it up with some garlic.Then I took a couple of chicken breasts, and sliced them horizontally from the thick middle to the outside (both sides, not going all the way through) to open them up like a french doors. Then I covered them with plastic wrap, and pounded them flat(ter) with a piece of marble. I don't have a mallet. I should lie and say I used a mallet for the sake of simplicity. Who pounds chicken with a marble sample?

Anyway, once they were flattened out a bit, I seasoned them with some salt and pepper...

and put some butter and my chopped herbs in the center.

Then I folded them up like a burrito, wrapped them each in a couple strips of bacon, and toothpicked them up to hold them together. I put them in a hot pan that had a little bit of olive oil in it to start the cooking.

I browned on all four sides, to give the bacon a head start on crispiness and then put the pan in the oven for about 20 minutes to finish cooking.

Here's what they looked like, just out of the oven.

After a few minutes of resting time, I sliced them up.

I have to say that they were pretty good, except for the fact that they garlic still had a raw taste to it when I ate it. I have since made it again and used roasted garlic for the herb stuffing (didn't take pics that time, sorry) and it was much more tasty with the roasted stuff.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Grandma Nancy's Sweet Potatoes

This Thanksgiving season, I am thankful for the fact that I still have both of my maternal grandparents. I am also thankful that my maternal grandmother doesn't have access to the Internet. Here's her super awesome sweet potato recipe. It's sweetened mashed sweet potatoes topped with a brown sugar/nut crust. They are fantastic. Just don't tell her that I gave you the recipe.
(As you can see from the pic, I truly intended on making some of these to photograph for the blog. I just ran out of time. The potatoes are from Chartrand Farms -they have a sign "Sweet Potatoes with Dirt". I love it.)
Anyway, here it is:
Sweet Potatoes:
2 lbs sweet potatoes
1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 t salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 t vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 t cinnamon
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup flour
Boil potatoes. Drain and mash with butter. Add sugar, salt eggs, milk and vanilla. Pour into a greased 9 inch baking dish. Mix remaining ingredients except pecans. Stir in nuts. Spread on top and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

I Got Some Oil

Well, I finally ran out of olive oil, so I went up to DiGregorio's to investigate the propane exchange-like oil thing they got going on. I decided upon the 32 ounce version. So for $16.99, I got the bottle you see on the left. Refills are only $11.99. As you can see, I've already used some and I think it's really good. Definately better quality than the stuff I normally buy (which is usually whatever is on sale.) It's really fruity. If I had three thumbs, I would give it an enthusiastic three thumbs up. One for the nice flavor, another for the value, and a third for its recycle-y nature.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Yikes I Didn't Realize Thanksgiving Is Next Week

So I need to share a couple of our special Turkey Day recipes with you. Today its the cranberry sauce. Hands down, the best cranberry sauce you will ever taste. My grandmother apparently plucked it from the pages of Better Homes and Gardens back in 1994 and tweaked it. It is awesome and it will make a cranberry eater out of anyone.

Cranberry Conserve

1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 tsp vinegar
1 large onion, chopped
1 12oz bag of cranberries
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 jalepeno pepper, chopped

In skillet: Combine brown sugar, butter and vinegar over medium heat stirring constantly - 2 minutes. Add onion and cook on low until tender. Remove from heat. In large pot: Combine all other ingredients and bring to a boil for 5 - 7 minutes stirring contantly. Add skillet contents and cook on low heat. Let cool and chill for 24 hours.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Double-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies: Chocolate Overload

I made the most amazing cookies today. So amazing that when I was adding the last of the ingredients to the bowl, I was overwhelmed with the smell of chocolate-y goodness and said "Oh my God!" (out loud, but to myself) which prompted The Captain to yell "are you okay?" from the other room and also caused him to come to the kitchen to make sure I was all right. When he got to the kitchen and saw and smelled the dough, his response was to utter an "Oh my God" as well. I was like "yeah, right?" and we both marvelled at the fantastic-ness that was before us. These guys are RICH though, and not for the weak. I got the recipe from Everyday Food magazine. The recipe isn't online yet. I hope Martha doesn't sue me.

Double-Chocolate Cranberry Cookies
16 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup AP flour
3 TBS unsweetened cocoa powder
1 TSP baking powder
1/2 TSP coarse salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temp
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 TSP vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried cranberries
I got everything ready at first. 350 degree oven. Melted 10 ounces of chocolate in the microwave for about a minute and a half.

Mixed my flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

Got my butter and sugars together.

Chopped up another 6 ounces of chocolate. (I threw some milk chocolate in there cause it was already unwrapped.)

Mmmm. Chocolate and cranberries. I kept stealing little nibbles of cranberries when I was getting everything else together.

So I creamed the butter and sugar.

Added a couple eggs and the vanilla.

Then added the melted chocolate.

And the flour mixture.

And when that was all mixed together, I added the chopped chocolates and the cranberries. (This was the OMG stage.)

The dough gets really stiff. Everyday Food recommends making 14 really big cookies 1/4 cup of batter at a time. I made regular sized cookies. About a heaping tablespoon of dough per cookie.

I baked them for about 10 minutes and let them cool on the pan before transferring them to a wire rack.

They are nothing short of amazing. Rich and chocolaty with little bits of tart cranberry.

Delicata Squash and Sage Pizza

I feel like we haven't had pizza in forever, so I made some pizza dough using Giada's recipe, but substituting whole wheat flour for half of the AP flour. This recipe makes two crusts, so you know there's gonna be a potato pizza. I eye up the delicata squash that I got a few weeks ago in the farm share and hatch a plan. Squash + fresh sage + parmigiano reggiano + hot pepper flakes + cracked black pepper = awesomeness for pizza. Just slice the squash super thin and it will cook up in the same amount of time that it takes for the dough to cook.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

White Wine Braised Chicken

So I had this bowl full of herbs and a box of wine, and I wasn't inclined to run to the grocery store. Sometimes I just like to look around, see what I have and try to create something fantastic for dinner with whats here. Its self serving, really. Its fun, and also, it saves me moolah. If I step foot in a grocery store, I will spend $50. Its a fact. I hate that about myself, so I try to limit my exposure.

First, I would like to say that I am thankful that its the middle of November and my herbs are still surviving outside. Sadly, they aren't growing back when I cut them. But I've got piles of sage and parsley still. I use them recklessly. I'm a little more conservative with the rosemary, oregano and thyme. They are getting dangerously nubby. The green onions are a bonus, as I thought all the onions had been picked, cured and stored a long time ago. Where was I going? Oh, I'm gonna make a braised chicken, using up some of these herbs and other things that I've got around the house.
I started by browning a couple of chicken breasts (that had been salted and peppered) skin side down first, in a little bit of olive oil and butter.

Flip and brown the other side.

While the chicken was browning, I peeled about 8 garlic cloves, and diced a small onion. I gave a rough chop to some sage, oregano, and rosemary, after I freed them from any thick or woodsy stems.

After the chicken was browned, I added about 2 cups of dry white wine, and the garlic, onions, and herbs.

Plus a little dijon mustard. The grainy kind. I love it.

Then I covered the chickens and let them cook on low heat for about an hour, flipping them over in the braising liquid every now and again.

After about an hour, I removed the chicken from the liquid and cover it with foil. Then I added a cup of chicken stock to the wine/garlic/onion/herb mixture and pureed it with an immersion blender to thicken it up. Now, must people would just strain the stuff out of it, but I wanted it kind of chunky and rustic. It wasn't quite as thick as I would have liked, so I whisked in a little corn starch mixture to thicken it up more.

While the sauce was simmering, I chopped some parsley and green onion. I put down a little bit of mashed parsnips and turnips, pulled the chicken off the bone, ladled on a little sauce, and topped it with the fresh parsley and onion. For a brief moment, I felt a little French. And a little country. It was magical and delicious. ;)

(Oddly, while I was cooking this, the house started to smell like someone was cooking Thanksgiving dinner, which was all right with me.)

Mashed Turnips and Parsnips (An Alternative to Mashed Potatoes)

I was talking to my dad the other day and he mentioned that he was somewhere far out west (well, west St. Louis) and someone had offered him a bag of turnips. He declined the bag telling the guy "I only know one person who likes turnips." Wait, what? This can't be true. Me and the Captain like them. We get them in the farmshare. I see them at Soulard. People are eating turnips, right? So, Dad, we were thinking about you when we ate these turnips and parsnips last night.

It gets dark so early now that me and The Captain had to dig out the parsnips by flashlight. It looked really covert, like we were digging for buried treasure or something.
Here's a bowl of things that got picked in the dark last night. A stray dead leaf of two made it into the mix. The herbs will appear in a later entry.

First I cleaned and peeled a few parsnips and a big turnip.

I cut them into 1 inch pieces, and covered them in cold water. Then boiled until tender (about 20 minutes.)

I drained them, then returned them to the pan and put them back on the stove.

I give the vegetables a couple of minutes on the stove, without water, to dry them up a bit before I mash them.

When they appear to be dry, I add some salt & pepper and about 3 tablespoons of butter and...

...mash 'em up.

They end up looking like mashed potatoes, but have a sweeter and nuttier flavor. Definitely one of my favorite foods.