Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Cranberry Salsa

I love this cranberry salsa.   It's amazingly delicious.  It's easy.  It's pretty.  It's all kinds of healthy.

I discovered the recipe over a year ago in a local newspaper.  I made it all last fall and winter and forgot about it until just last weekend.   What a treat to find the clipping and be inspired to make it again.  I'm putting it here so I won't lose it again, and so you can try making it.

Fresh Cranberry Salsa  (makes ~1 quart)

1 package fresh cranberries (washed and picked over)
2-4 stalks celery
1/2 red onion
1  jalapeno (seeded)
4 Tbs  sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbs lime juice
cilantro to taste

chop everything fine, or use food processor

Mix it all up.  Done.

If you can wait 3-24 hrs for the flavors to meld, it will get even better, but I tend to gobble it up right away.

Notes and modifications:

This is only a little spicy, my kids like it.

I ran out of lime juice and used lemon juice - it was still pretty dang good.
Ditto on the red onion and substituting regular onion.

You can also halve the recipe, although I don't know why you'd want to.  I'd just eat any extra with a spoon.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Melting Air

Every year our church's mother's group has a Holiday Cookie exchange.  This year I brought meringue cookies.  It's kind of an every day cookie here because I have one child who likes just a fried egg yolk for breakfast, which leaves a lot of egg whites in a tub in the fridge.  That also explains why I can't tell you exactly how many eggs to use.  I'd say about half a pint of eggs makes one batch and fills the cookie jar.

Not only are these cookies yummy melt-in-your-mouth, but they are also gluten free and dairy free.

Meringue Cookies

egg whites
sugar to equal volume of egg whites
splash of vanilla (or other flavor)

Heat oven to 400 degrees F.

Whip egg whites and vanilla until frothy.  Slowly add sugar as you continue whipping egg whites.  Stop when the egg whites can form a stiff peak.

Drop by teaspoonful onto cookie sheets covered with parchment paper.

Turn off oven and put cookies in.  Leave them in a long time.  Like all day.  Every now and then check on the cookies.  If the oven has cooled, turn it on as low as it will go (170 for my oven) for 10-20 min.  Leave them in overnight if you can.

What you're doing is essentially drying the cookies out.  Test them as you go.   When the cookie is hard and dry (not chewy, and not weeping)  it's done.  It will be crisp to bite, but melt in your mouth if you don't chew.

Notes and modifications:

I've forgotten the vanilla and they're still pretty good.

You can try other flavorings.  I liked almond extract.  The orange extract just tasted vaguely citrus.  Rum was uniformly awful.  I haven't tried mint yet, but that might be an interesting Christmas experiment.

No Knead Bread - the new crack

I've been using a slightly modified version of this no knead bread from Frugal Homemaking.

My version is slightly different, in that I have lowered the salt.  It's just a preference thing - I don't like salty bread.

It's amazing, and super easy.  I can make it up quickly, ignore it for half a day or over night, throw it in the oven and take it to a gathering and come away looking like a hero.  Yea me!

Here's the basic recipe I've been making.  I've got it memorized now.  Maybe I'll try making it on the boat!

No Knead Bread

3 cups warm water
1 tsp yeast
1 1/2 Tbsp salt
6 cups white flour

Mix the yeast and salt with the warm water, mix in the flour.  Let rise (covered or uncovered) for 5+ hrs.  (I use an unheated oven, since my house is a bit cool this time of year)

Put an oven-safe pot w/ lid into the oven to warm at 500 degrees F.   I line the pot with parchment paper because that makes it easier to get the bread out.
Once oven reaches temperature pour/scrape the dough/batter into the pot, cover with the lid, and bake for 1/2 hour.  Turn oven off, take lid off pot and leave the bread in the hot (but cooling) oven for another 15-30 min.  (this crisps and browns the top)

That's it.  All done.

Plain no knead bread and chocolate chip dry cherry no knead bread

Notes and Modifications:

Once you've got the basic recipe down you can play with it.  I like dried apricots with walnuts bread, and chocolate chip cherry bread.  Bit Boy likes kalamata olive bread, which is also pretty good.

This is a pretty big loaf of bread, I use a 10 qt cast iron dutch oven with a lid to bake it in.  It makes two nice smaller loaves if you have a couple of smaller pots.  If you make two loaves you can have one plain and experiment with adding stuff to the other loaf.

I've tried this with whole wheat flour.  Don't do that.  Just don't.  I usually love whole grain flours, but this comes out like a brick.  If you  must, you can make 1 cup of it whole wheat, but it won't be crack bread, it'll just be very good bread.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Christmas in July

I love how my house smells today.  It's because my younger two boys like to bake. 

Lego Boy wanted Pfeffernusse and Hot Dog wanted Pizzelles.   These are traditional Christmas cookies around here, but I think our recent trip made them crave comfort food.  I had chemo yesterday so I said they could have them if they made them themselves.  Hot Dog needed a little support ("I'm best at taste testing and timing, Mom") but he managed to do everything himself except putting the batter on the iron.

So, for your own Christmas in July, here are two of our favorite Christmas Cookies.

(Little Pepper Nuts)

Pfeffernusse is a traditional Danish cookie, something my grandmother would make every year using her own mother's recipe.  It's a spicy crunchy little cookie.   Born in Denmark, Great Grandma's recipe began with "Use plenty big kettle".  This recipe is modified from the Betty Crocker Cookie Book, and doesn't require boiling molasses syrup.  It also doesn't risk breaking your teeth, like my old family recipe.  ;-)

1/2 cup shorting (butter, margarine, or oil)
1 1/2 cup molasses  OR 1 cup molasses + 1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg
3 drops anise oil + 1 Tbls hot water
3 1/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour or all purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp allspice OR ginger

Mix shortening, sugar, egg, molasses (and sugar if using it) and anise.
Mix in dry ingredients.

Make into bite size pieces and bake on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees F.  If using a convection oven bake at 325.  Remove while still hot.  They will get crunchy as they cool.

Notes and modifications:

If dough is to soft to handle, chill it for a bit.

You can vary the ratio of spices if you like.  Personally I prefer a little more pepper and a little less clove, so feel free to play with it.

These cookies may be made in to small bite size balls by hand, rolled out thick and cut with a pastry cutter, or if you're feeling up to it you can roll it and use tiny cookie cutters to make pretty bite size cookies.  Did you catch that they must be small and bite size?  They're very crunchy and you want to get it all in one bite.

These are a sturdy little cookie and store well in any container.

Some heathens dip these in powdered sugar when they're done.  I don't get it, but you can if you want.

From "The New Book of Waffles and Pizzelles"

3 eggs
1/2 cup butter (or 1/4 cup butter  1/4 cup oil)
2 Tbls anise extract
1 Tbls ground anise seed
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or all purpose flour)

Beat butter (and oil, if using) with sugar, extract and anise seeds.   Beat in eggs.  Add baking powder and flour.

Bake according to your pizzelle maker's manufacturer's instructions.

Notes and modifications:

This is the traditional Italian version that I love.  If anise isn't your thing (you weirdo, you) there are many other variations.  The most basic of which is to just substitute vanilla for the anise.  Oooh, but using orange extract is really nice too.

These are very delicate cookies.  If you use half oil, they are a little sturdier.

To store I like the round cookie tins you can find at the thrift stores.  That protects them a bit more than a cookie jar.

If you make the vanilla ones you can also roll them around a form while they're still hot to make homemade ice cream cones, or around a rod for a cannoli shell.

If you want to be really fancy you can drizzle some dark chocolate on the pizzell.  They're yummy and pretty that way, but harder to store.

Friday, March 23, 2012

JaNeen's Kale Salad

Friends brought this kale salad to Christmas Eve dinner. It was a perfect winter salad; hearty, flavorful, and satisfying. I'm enjoying it just as much this spring.

Recently, I served this to some girlfriends and promised them the recipe, so here it is. :^)

Kale Salad

all measurements approximate, taste test as you go. I make up the dressing in advance and just put it on the kale when I want the salad. JaNeen puts on the olive oil first and then tosses things in to taste. It's all good.

Kale - a bunch, torn or cut into bite size pieces

olive oil ~2/3 cup
garlic minced - ~2-3 Tbs.
Bragg's Liquid Aminos - ~1 Tbs (this is salty, add with care)
lemon juice ~1/4 cup (you may like a little more or less)
nutritional yeast flakes or powder ~3 Tbs (I keep adding more each time I make the salad and I haven't hit the top yet)
toasted sesame seeds ~1/4 cup (I toast these each time I make them, since the fresh keep longer)

Notes and Modifications:

This salad keeps really, really well - like days and days - and it's just as good. That's kale for you. Lettuce just can't stand up like that. :-P

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rosemary Focaccia

My madrigal group hosted a benefit called "Appetizers A Capella" last weekend. My contributions were pizzelles and this Focaccia bread. I didn't realize until it was already a done deal that I had an Italian theme going.

Rosemary Focaccia Bread

(modified from Bread Machine Baking)

2 tsp yeast
3 cups whole white wheat flour
3 tbs gluten
1/2 cup cornmeal
2 tsp salt
1/3 cup olive oil
1 1/2 cup water
2 tbs fresh rosemary or 1 tbs dried rosemary

Throw it all in the bread machine on the dough cycle, or mix and knead as with any bread. Should be a smooth soft ball of dough, add water during kneading if necessary. Allow to rise until almost double.

After first rising: Preheat oven to 425 (F) or 400 (F) for a convection oven
Sprinkle baking sheet with cornmeal. Knead and pat dough into a flat 1 inch thick disk. Let rise for about 30 minutes (may need longer depending on temperature)
Poke dimples with your finger all over the disk dough.
Pour over the top 1/4 cup olive oil, then sprinkle 2 tsp course salt

Bake at 425 F (or 400 F convection ) for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 (F) (or 325 (f) for convection) for another 12 to 15 minutes. Top should be golden brown.

Serve warm or cool, sliced in wedges with bread dip

Notes and modifications:

This can be made with white flour, but regular whole wheat is a bit much
If you use white flour you don't need the gluten
If there is any left over you can cut it horizontally and make some nice grilled sandwiches out of it.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Indian Stew?

Ever notice how the best soup recipes start out "Saute chopped onion"? :-)
As soon as I started frying onions tonight every kid came up and asked "Whatcha making?" or "When's dinner?"

Tonight we had an Indian inspired stew (which we served with our experiment in making naan).

Indian Inspired Stew:

2 chopped onions
2 chopped carrots
4 cloves chopped garlic
~1" peeled and chopped ginger

Saute all together until tender

Add -

chunked meat (I used left over roast beast from New Years dinner)
~ 25 oz diced tomatoes
Thow in any nice big chunks of veggies you have around. ( I had two baggies full of baby carrots, broccoli, and snow peas, left over from a recent picnic.)

Spice to taste with:
ground fennel

Thin with water and cook down.

Notes and modifications:

I started dinner only an hour before we needed to eat. This would be better cooked down for half a day.

I used beef fat from another meal to saute the veggies.

If I had thought of it I would have used some beef bone broth instead of water to thin the broth.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Red Beans

Happy New Year's Day!

I love that we got invited to a potluck brunch for New Year's Day. Eating with friends is not only a good way to spend some time (and calories) but also portends a great year.

My offering was red beans and rice. It's simple, delicious, healthy, and economical. What more could you want?

This looks like a long recipe, but notice that it's really just beans, ham bone, chopped veggies, and spices.

Red Beans (and rice)
- from Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen, by Paul Prudhomme

1/2 pound dry red kidney beans
water to cover all
3 lbs small ham hocks
1 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped green peppers
3 bay leaves
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon garlic poder
3/4 teaspoon oregano leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper (preferably cayenne)
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Throw it all together in a big pot and cook for at least half a day. Add water as necessary, depending on how thick you like it.

Serve with rice, especially if it's hot and your guests like it mild, or if you need to stretch the quantity.

Notes and modifications:

This doubles easily, and freezes and reheats well.

I didn't get any special "ham hocks", and didn't make sure I had 3 lbs of it either. I just used the bone left over from the Christmas ham. It was fine.

I've halved the pepper and Tabasco sauce from the original recipe. YMMV, depending on your tastes and how fresh your spices are. Remember, taste as you go and give the pepper time to expand to its' full flavor. You can always add spice, but once it's in all you can do is pour the mess over more rice if it's too spicy.

In the book the recipe actually has instructions about such frivolities as soaking the beans, cooking the meat separately, taking out the bones, etc. I'm not a patient cook. Soaking the beans speeds the cooking time, but I've never noticed the mythical decrease in flatulence (commonly called farts, or toots, at my house). Eat beans regularly, as your digestive system adjusts the toots will decrease (or maybe you'll just cease to notice them - shrug). Cooking the beans from the start with all the good stuff increases their flavor and nutritional content, and you want that nice meld of flavors that cooking for half a day gives. I also figure my people are quite capable of fishing out bay leaves and bones as necessary.