Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to Make Butter

I knew I'd abandoned the Spork but I didn't realize how bad it was until I saw my last post was back in October. OCTOBER! Have I not cooked nearly every night since then? Have no recipes been new? Do I have no travel adventures to share? The answer is "No" ( at least I think it is...I get confused with all those double negatives.) What I'm trying to say is, sorry, dudes. I've missed you. Can we still be friends?

You'll be happy to know that I've been baking more since we last met... not that I've been successful or anything ( pssst...if you're making bread this holiday season be sure to remember the baking powder. Especially if said bread is intended as a hostess gift...) Oh, and I've gained five pounds...that might actually coincide with the wee bit of knowledge I shall impart to you today.

Ready for it?
Okay. Prepare yourself to be hailed as chef extraordinaire when you bust out this culinary skill.

Yes, friends, I'm talking about making the butter. Just imagine yourself at your next holiday potluck...

Relative: "Mmmm, I just love Grandma's mashed potatoes. Oh, what did you make this year?"

You: "Me??? Why, I made a little something called THE BUTTER!"

Just don't tell anyone how easy it was and you'll totally be in the clear from helping with the dishes. Here's what you do:

Photo Credit: GwenElliott on Flickr ( Can you believe I didn't snap my own pic?) Thanks, GwenElliott-- beautiful shot.

Yields a 1/2 cupish

1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream ( the fresher and colder, the better)
1/2 to 1 tsp of kosher salt ( it all depends on how salty you like your butter.)

Special equipment: Food Processor and Fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth

1. Add cream and salt to food processor fitted with blade.

2. Constantly pulse the heck out of it. Seriously, first it will look like whipped cream followed by supremely thick whipped cream. It will trick you for a little while and you might give up on it, but don't. Keep it going. All the sudden, the thick cream will slosh and clumps of curds will separate from the liquid. I'm told the liquid is buttermilk but I really don't know. I'm concerned about butter here, people.

3. Discard the liquid and strain the curds through the cheesecloth or mesh strainer, pushing or squeezing out all liquid. Place in a ramekin or small bowl.

At this point, you could fold in seasonings or herbs or whatever strikes your fancy. I like it plain in all it's creamy goodness. Served immediately if a whipped texture is desired or form and chill.

Pretty easy, huh? You won't even break a sweat and you'll reap all the benefits of hours spent churning away. It kinda makes you feel like you should exercise to make up the difference. But, then again, why do that when you can consume mass quantities of homemade butter? The world makes sense again.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pumpkin Pie Balls

I decided to make cake balls again to take to our annual family hayride a couple weeks ago. Call me crazy because apparently I forgot how time consuming they can become. Call me awesome because I stumbled upon an even better recipe than my last attempt. I was looking for something thoroughly fall/hayride appropriate and Bridget at Bake at 350 totally came through for me. She calls these delicious autumn wonders "Pumpkin Spice Cake Balls" but I found that when adapted a tad, they can come out with the consistency of pumpkin pie. Okay, okay, "adapted" means I accidentally used a whole can of pumpkin instead of 1 cup and my cake fell because it was super thick and dense. Guess what? It turned out great. Since it was so moist, I added a 1/2 a can of cream cheese versus the standard full can and the sweetness and texture was spot on.

Here's my adapted recipe for Pumpkin Pie Balls
(Makes about 4-5 dozen balls)

1 box French Vanilla cake mix
1 full can of pumpkin ( not pumpkin pie blend- just straight up canned pumpkin)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup canola oil
4 large eggs
1/2 can cream cheese frosting
chocolate candy melts or almond bark
Nuts, sprinkles, grated coconut, or reserved almond bark for decorating ( optional)
1. Beat all top section ingredients until blended and bake according to package instructions in a 13x9 pan. Cake should rise and toothpick should come out clean from center. However, since the cake is extra dense, it will fall when removed from the oven.
2. Allow cake to cool enough to handle. Crumble and smoosh the cake together- it will be pretty mushy. Add 1/2 can of cream cheese frosting and blend well. NOTE: I don't know why but I really prefer Duncan Hines cream cheese to Pilsbury. The Pilsbury one tastes like plastic cotton candy. Is that just me?
3. Shape into bite size balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet ( you'll probably need a few.) Chill in the fridge for at least an hour. You want these to be pretty cold.
4. Melt almond bark or chocolate melts however you like but not over a direct flame. 10-15 second intervals in the microwave works well. Or, you can put a mixing bowl in a a stock pot to steam water in order to melt them. I'm pretty sure there's an actual piece of equipment for this but why buy one more thing?
I bought lousy bark from the convenience store because I thought I had some but I didn't and I didn't want to drive all the way to the Wal-Mart and get suckered into buying forty more things. Lousy bark or overheated bark may require the addition of shortening to loosen things up a bit. Add in small spoonfuls if needed until it is a smooth consistency that will easily coat your pie balls.
5. Remove balls from the fridge and individually dunk into the almond bark using a fork to remove from the bowl and a spoon to toss chocolate over the top. The use of a toothpick is very handy for replacing the ball back on the parchment paper. You can see a great example of this technique in action courtesy of P-dub here.
6. If decorating with loose bits like nuts or sprinkles, top while the chocolate is still tacky. If decorating with piped almond bark, wait until the chocolate coating is fully set.
I prefer these chilled but I also hate warm pie so, there ya go. I'd use your pie preferences as a guide here because, they aren't cake-like in texture at all. One last piece of advice...if you want any of these for yourself, hide them. I only got one.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

How to Grate Fresh Coconut

It's been a month since my last post and really even longer since I've been inspired to get creative in the kitchen. I tried so very hard to push myself to make something new but I just kept falling back to the comforts ( we had a lot of chicken potato burritos...)

So, it took our latest themed dinner party to break me out of my shell.

Ahhh, Indian Food night. I'd been looking forward to this theme for forever. I selected an amazing recipe for Southern Spiced Lahori Chicken Curry from Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness and I'd already sent Aubrey to the city to get all the unique ingredients. I was all ready to go except I forgot to get unsweeted grated coconut. No prob, they always have that junk at the Wal-Mart, so off I went.

I was wrong. There was no grated coconut to be found other than the severely sweetened version of which I despise. Oh, but wait... could they? Do they? YES, they do have real, actual, whole coconuts. Leave it to my Wal-Mart to finally come through with an off the wall item. I had no other choice.

I bought the little dude.

Now, I realize this isn't exactly a seasonal post. People are usually thinking about coconuts when it's a little bit warmer outside. As for me, it's the middle of fall and I need me some coconut. I put on some N'Sync to psych myself up and set out trying to figure out how to conquer the coconut. Fortunately, Indian Home Cooking has some suggestions as to how to crack into these babies.

Step one: They say to get a screwdriver or a sharpening steel to poke into the "eyes" in order to drain the coconut juice. HA! I say...

Step two: Pour out the juice or save to make a "lovely, sweet and very refreshing drink."

Psssh. I only had six hours until showtime.

Step three: "Bake the coconut in a 350 degree F oven to make the white flesh pull away from the brown husk." Sure, how long? Wait...it doesn't say!!! I went with 25 minutes.
Step four: Wrap the coconut in a towl and bang on it with a hammer to split it open...can do.

Look at that! It smelled deliciously toasty and I felt like such a success. Except, now's probably a good time to tell you that there was actually a second coconut partaking in this process. Just incase I screwed up on the time I left the second one in for about 35 minutes. This is what happened:

Oh, and that delicious toasty smell? Replace that with roasted windex and you've got an idea of how foul this was. I'm not quite sure if it was rotten to begin with or if the ten extra minutes did it in. Either way, 25 minutes worked great so I'd rather not try 35 again. Into the trash this went. Now, onward!

Step five: Use a flathead screw driver to separate the white flesh from the hard shell. (Not as easy as it sounds but doable... have no fear if it breaks away in small pieces. Oh, and it takes some force.)

Step six: Use a vegetable peeler to peel off the thin layer of brown skin.

Step seven: Grate on a grater or in a food processor--- ( use the processor- you've earned a break by now.)

And, that's pretty much it. It was actually much easier than I expected...not that I want to do this everyday or anything. One coconut yeilds a sandwich baggy full of freshly grated coconut. I only needed 1/2 cup so I froze the rest. In the end, the N'Sync tunage seemed much more appropriate for the task at hand...it just tried to seem tough.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

She's ALIVE!!!!

Apparently, I'm not destined to blog this month. But, hey, my whole point in writing this here blog is to allow myself to unabashedly lust for travel and food from around the world. Since I've actually been doing some of that stuff lately, I haven't had time to pine for it. I'm in it!

Needless to say, I haven't been cooking much for the last few weeks either and it doesn't look like that trend is gonna end anytime soon. Miami Little Theatre's "The Sound of Music" begins at the Coleman Theater tomorrow night and I bear the title of "dresser" this time. That is, I get to help 7 kids through 9 costume changes one of which happens in less than a minute flat. But that's beside the point! The point is as soon as I get a break, I'm back baby. Then you'll get to hear all about what I've been up to, how Aubrey caught the biggest fish ever, how I'm the worst barterer in history and how my bud Tasha did a town OTHER THAN Tulsa...

Friday, September 4, 2009

Eating in Santa Fe Pt. 1: The Santa Fe Farmer's Market

Sorry again for the hiatus. I'm sorta lousy at blogging and traveling at the same time. Great quality to have for a travel blog, I'm sure. Also, sometimes, I get too hungry to photograph and document my food adventures which makes content a bit of a challenge.... that's another story though that involves the fact that I have no flash and tend to cook at night. Gah!

Anyway, point is, we've been hittin' the road pretty hard these days. Last weekend, we went to Santa Fe for a fishing/shopping getaway with pals Kevin and Sindy. Last time I was in Santa Fe, Aubrey got food poisoning. This time, he got sick in advance. I'm not quite sure what it is with him and traveling west on I-40. Something deep within him rebels. Either way, he doped up and recovered nicely which made for a pretty fab trip.

Now, onto the delciousness...

I know, I know- how can I write that Aubrey contracted food poisoning last time and recommend great eats in the same post, right? It's real easy. I'll start with what NOT to eat...and that would be McDonald's New Mexican inspired Green Chile Double Cheeseburger. Just don't do it.

Instead, get the real deal. Santa Fe is known for it's roast hatch green chile and you can get a pretty good whiff of it throughout downtown where roasters are turning their roasting aparatuses like mad men. I have no idea what these spinner things are called ( roasters perhaps?)...I just know they work.

Sindy and I got our chile in the form of fresh baked Green Chile bread from the Intergalactic Bread Company. They're featured in the current issue of Edible Santa Fe and known for their free form loaves made with locally grown ingredients. Oh, and, you can only get it if you travel to New Mexico- they only sell it at farmers markets in Santa Fe, Los Alamos, and Taos. So, since we were there and all...we got some. Of course.

But we didn't stop there.

The Santa Fe Farmer's Market is sprawling with vendors boasting goods of all varieties and colors. For instance, I learned that there are at least seven different types of eggplants and probably more...

Likewise, I've never seen so many different types of tomatoes in my life.

That's B & B Farms of La Mesilla, New Mexico ( thanks for the hand modeling) and they had some pretty amazing cherry tomatoes that we snatched up. They also had the BEST blackberries I've ever had in my life. I sampled one and they said, "I bet you'll have to buy some" and they were right. I bought some, promptly ate them, and snuck back for a few more "free" samples-yeah, they're pretty much crackberries.

With bread and tomatoes, all we needed was a little cheese (aged cheddar made with goat's milk, to be exact) and we had ourselves a fine lap lunch. We walked around for a while to find the perfect bench on which to sit and enjoy it. I think we made a great selection.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Entertainment in St. Louis- Herbaria Soaps (WINNER UPDATED)

Okay, so soap making may not be the first thing that comes to mind for entertainment in St. Louis. Afterall, there are plenty of pro-sports teams, cool jazz joints, and other rambunctious activties. Nevertheless, I highly recommend you check out Herbaria, a little soap company on The Hill where scents of lavender and peppermint win the sensory battle of a ten foot section of the charming streets, leaving you clammering to get into the door for a better whiff. And, whiff you may...

There are plenty of sniffs to go 'round like those of Lycopene Tomato, Indonesian Safflower, and Patchouli Hemp ( to name a few.) You can even pick up some incredible handmade soap dishes to hold it all in.

The cool thing is, they give tours of how everything is made and are completely welcoming.

I love that every product is made independently and free of chemicals- we're talking pure vegetable goodness here. I also love that Herbaria granted me my first "paid" photography gig- trade photos for their website for free soap and THAT, friends, is a gift I'm passing along to you.
All you have to do is leave a comment telling me what recipe you'd like me try and make next and you're entered to win a bar of Avocado Lemon soap!
"What? You're giving away a bar of soap??" This isn't just any soap, people. Husby will attest to the quality and let me just say, he doesn't give a flip about soap...usually. The Herbaria Licorice Bar has him won over for good. I really wish I liked black licorice because it makes the entire bathroom smell like it. That's some good soap.
They were slicing up freshly made Avocado Lemon bars while we were there so this is your chance to get a piece of it.
Winner will be randomly drawn using random.org and announced on Thursday morning ( 8.27.09) I'll accept entries until the very moment I get up on Thursday morning ( around 7:00ish, give or take a snooze.)
Now go come up with something good for me to make!
UPDATE: April!- You are the lucky winner of a bar of Avocado Lemon Soap! Random.org had the harrowing job of randomly picking 1-4 entries and you got it. Congrats. Now, go take a shower.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Eating in St. Louis- Guido's Pizza and Tapas

When we weren't risking rash and arrest in St. Louis last weekend, we went on a normal bike ride through one of my favorite neighborhoods of St. Louis known as The Hill District. The Hill is a predominantly Italian community populating roughly 50 square blocks south of downtown where Italian immigrants began to settle as early as the mid-1800s.

I love the character of the streets from the green bricked buildings and uniquely painted doors to the prideful fire hydrants and people walking around with bread. And, oh yeah... that's pizza you're smelling in the air...
Never come to The Hill on a full stomach. I mean, that's just crazyness. In fact, you might want to skip breakfast to make some more room for the tasty deliciousness to be had all around. We decided to try out Guido's Pizza and Tapas as it's rated one of St. Louis Magazine's Best 35 restaurants. Oh, and because it's perfect for the person who can't make up their mind ( like, me, for instance.)

The menu is extensive and decidedly diverse, ranging from albondigas to calamari, homemade lasagna to mediterranean mussels. Though I'm sure the tapas are great, you don't go to a mexican place to order a cheeseburger and you don't go to The Hill to eat anything other than Italian. That's as far as my decision making got us, though.
We started with drinks and a salad to share with the house vinagrette and provel cheese while we studied our options. Mmmmm....

Ultimately, when I was about to order a cheese pizza and some lasagna, we saw this massive plate of pasta go by and had to have it to share.

The tortellini was filled with a blend of veal and pork served in a buttery cream sauce and topped with peas, pruscutto, and freshly grated parmesean. You know how sometimes Italian restaurants shoot for rich and just end up salty? This was spot on rich. We were in Italian heaven. And, don't be fooled by all the sharing... we left fully stuffed and satisfied with food left on the plate all for under $25.00. Seriously, it's worth a trip to St. Louis just for this.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zucchini Bread

My heightened awareness and possession of zucchini this season has led me to seek out many ways to make it. Zucchini and squash stir fry can only take me so far and, after the massive chicken and zucchini failure, I was on a hunt for something new and different that I could master. So, of course, I had to set out trying zucchini bread when a friend suggested I make it with this giant zucchini I'd acquired. (I should have taken a picture of it next to my head for perspective...)

I wasn't immediately sold on the idea...I mean, banana and pumpkin, yes, but whoever heard of zucchini bread? I entertained visions of providing my bread to unsuspecting receptacles... "Oh, wow, that's delicious" they would say. "What is that making my taste buds swoon?" Then I would squeal out, "It's...It's... Z-Z-ZUCCHINI!!!" and all would herald me as a creative extraordinaire. MUhahahaha.

Very quickly, my dreams were crushed. Sadly, everyone and their mother has had zucchini bread in my town except for me. Even MY MOTHER said she used to make it all the time and she's not even from my town. Oh, and, the above scenario is based on a very optimistic view that I wouldn't burn the thing. Yet, I was still set on making it depite the fact that my bud bailed on providing the recipe. Plus, I was pretty determined to find someone who hadn't had it before.

I came across this foundational piece at allrecipes.com and modified it resulting in less fat and full deliciousness. I reduced the sugar and used half white and half brown. I swapped half the oil for applesauce and to make up for what I feared would be a loss in moistness, I added an additional cup of grated zucchini. Hey, I had to get my tricks in there somewhere and, guess what? It was a winning combo by all accounts - even from experienced zucchini bread eaters. I'll definitely be making this again ( especially since the zucchini supply hasn't diminished at all)

Zucchini Bread ( adapted from Mom's Zucchini Bread and Allrecipes.com) Makes 2 loaves ( one to eat- one to share!)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil 1/2 cup applesauce
1 cup white sugar 1 cup brown sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups grated zucchini
1 cup chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Butter 2 8x 4 inch loaf pans.

2.Sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, and cinnamon together in a bowl.
Beat eggs, oil, applesauce, vanilla, brown and white sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. Stir in zucchini and nuts until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

3. Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool.

4. Deliver second loaf to the neighbor but don't tell them it's zucchini bread, just in case they haven't had it before.

Score! They hadn't had it. Mission complete.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Happy Birthday, Aubrey

Aubrey has managed to drag his birthday celebrations out as long as humanly possible. He had a week's worth of festivities and well wishes. Last night marked the end when I finally was able to make him his favorite Irishy birthday dish...Horseradish Shepherd's Pie. Oh yes, you've seen this recipe before. But THIS time, the flames on the pie were intentional.

We listened to very Irishy music and slammed pints of Guinness. It was all very authentic, mmm hmm, definitely. To round out Aub's current obsession with all things Irish, I gifted him a couple tickets to see the legendary Shane MacGowan of The Pogues in Kansas City on October 25th. Did you know Shane MacGowan once ate Volume 3 of a Beach Boys album because he thought he was convincing the Russian Ambassador of the worthlessness of American Imperialism. Huh? What? That's what I said. But, the dude's got something. He really does.

And you can find out what it is! If you can't get to Ireland for a pub crawl, this might be the next best thing. Tickets are still on sale here for their American Tour dates near you. If you go to the one in KC, look for the horribly out of place short mexican girl... that'll be me.

Happy Birthday, darling!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Julia Child's Ratatouille

I'm not a huge TV watcher. When I do watch, I'm usually drawn to the food network and those weird food shows on the public station. Despite this, I only recall catching a Julia Child show twice in my whole life. Strangely, I could recognize her voice anywhere. Julia Child is a culinary fixture, the literal voice of a movement, the Chuck Norris of the kitchen. To many, her recipes are timeless classics. To others, her dishes are antiquated and reminiscent of a time long before I was wielding a spatula, that's for sure. The Julia of my mind leans toward the latter...a person you know through the collective filters of popular culture, certainly not accessible. Definitely not an inspiration to me.

When I read Julie & Julia, (a book inspired by the true story of a pioneering food blogger who randomly decides to make all 524 recipes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking in 365 days) I expected to be alienated, punished for not knowing a thing about Julia Child- a no-no in the food world. Instead I found something I could relate to... a real life Julia seen through the eyes of someone like me- a complete and utter non-pro. Did you know Julia Child started cooking when she was 32? If that's not an inspiration to try new things, I don't know what is.

In celebration of the triump of two 30ish women with the cajones to try something new, I decided to get all Julie/Julia and make a recipe from MTAOFC myself. I chose Ratatouille because it looked the EASIEST! Guess what? Not Easy! Am I a convert to Julia's ways? Absolutley not. Do I respect them? Completely. Just be prepared to do a lot of dishes because one dish wonders are not Julia's forte. And remember, do as Julia says!

Ratatouille- From Mastering the Art of French Cooking ( sourced from Bon Apetit August 2009)

6 Servings

1/2 pound eggplant
1/2 pound zucchini, trimmed
1 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 8-ounce onion, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 green bell peppers, thinly sliced into strips
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 pound firm but ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, cut into 3/8- to 1/4-inch-thick strips
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

1. Promptly freak out about eggplant looking like a Conehead. Impersonate Coneheads for 3 minutes while watching the eggplant impersonate James Dean in the fridge.

Peel eggplant; cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut into 3-inch-long, 1-inch-wide strips. Cut zucchini into same size strips. Place vegetables in large bowl; sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt. Let stand 30 minutes. Drain; dry with paper towels.

Heat 4 tablespoons oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add eggplant and zucchini to skillet; sauté until light golden, about 1 minute per side. Transfer to plate; reserve.

Add 3 tablespoons oil to skillet; heat over medium heat. Add onion and peppers; sauté until just tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Stir in garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

Place tomato strips atop onion-pepper mixture in skillet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover skillet; cook over low heat until tomatoes begin to juice, about 5 minutes. Uncover; baste vegetables in skillet with juices. Boil until juices are almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes.

Transfer 1/3 of onion-pepper-tomato mixture to 2 1/2-quart pot; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley. Top with half of eggplant and half of zucchini, then remaining onion-pepper-tomato mixture; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley. Layer remaining eggplant and zucchini over; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley. Cover; simmer over low heat 10 minutes.

Uncover; tilt pot and baste with accumulated juices. Increase heat to medium; simmer uncovered, basting several times with pan juices until only 2 to 3 tablespoons juices remain in pot, watching closely to avoid scorching, 10 to 15 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper.

You get all that? Makes Rachel Ray seem downright concise.

When you get all the dishes done, be sure to see Julia go to the masses when Julie & Julia, the movie, opens on August 7th.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Meat and Potato Pie

Wow, has it really been over two weeks since my last post? It's not due to laziness in blogging...I promise! It's more like zero time to invest in securing ingredients unknown to the Wal-Marts in my town and only a fraction of my normal energy for such causes. Work has been demanding my whole existence for the last few weeks. At such times, I look to tried comforts, readily available and up for the task of satisfying the ravenous hunger of 10 working men or at least me and Aubrey for a couple days. That's right- Meat and Potatoes. This recipe is my mother's and it happens to be easy as pie... HA! I crack myself up. I like to have a vat of Louisiana Hot Sauce to go along with this and let me just say, I love any opportunity to use the stuff. Did you know my mom is the charter member of M.A.T.O.C ( Mothers Against The Overuse of Condiments)?? It's a one woman club but she's as active as a full force. Oh, mother... whatever will I do with you? I know, I'll make your flippin' amazing pie!

Meat and Potato Pie
(Serves 6 sorta hungry people and 4 really hungry people.)


1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion finely diced
1 Tbsp. minced garlic
Lawry's season salt ( the comforts are back!- this was the only seasoning I used through college.)
4 cups peeled and diced russet potatoes
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/4 to 1/2 cup milk ( for thinning and rubbing onto top crust)
1 pkg. prepared pie crust ( top and bottom- I like Pilsbury in the red box.)

1. Brown beef with onions, garlic, and season salt to taste in a large pot. Drain of excess fat.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

3. Add potatoes, soup to the beef. Stir in milk as needed to thin out if you added more potatoes. Mix and season again to taste. Heat over medium high until bubbly. Reduce heat to low and cover for 30-40 minutes until potatoes are nearly soft. Stir occasionally and briefly.

4. While potatoes are getting all soft, prepare a 9" pie dish and get the crust out of the fridge so it will be near room temperature. Place the bottom crust in the pan.

5. When the meat and potatoes are done, add to pie dish and top with top crust. Feel free to get all fancy with crimping the edges to seal. I use the ol' fork method of pressing the tines into the dough around the edge to create a seal. Guess what? I totally just learned that the fork prong things are called tines. Yay for Google.

6. Cut slits into the top crust and rub a bit of milk on top to make a delicious golden crust.

7. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until golden and not burned ( important.) You may want to put a baking dish underneath in case you overfilled. Not that I've ever done this, of course.

Yay! Let's eat this muther!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Top-Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie

It's the moment you've all been waiting for.... I actually baked something without destroying it on my first go. Not only that, but it was my first ever pie- from scratch. Oh, yeah.

I didn't mill the flour or anything, but you get the point. Not only that, I utilized my whole patch of fresh Porter Peaches so I felt very old-fashioned, indeed. The occasion called for my Big Band playlist. If you're ready to embark on the "pie from scratch" journey or if you're an old pro looking for a new twist on the standard peach, this is sure to flip your wig. Newbies like me will enjoy the entry level pie rolling skill requirement!

Top- Crust Peach and Cardamom Pie
Bon Apetite, August 2009
Serves 8 ( or Aubrey and I over 3 days)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
3 tablespoons (or more) ice water

2 1/2 pounds firm but ripe peaches, peeled, halved, pitted, sliced 1/2 inch thick****
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar in the raw

2 1/Special Equipment: scalloped cookie cutter ( or, in my case- a mini tart dish)

**** We'll talk about this!
For crust:

1. Blend flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add butter; using on/off turns, process until mixture resembles very coarse meal. Add 3 tablespoons ice water; process using on/off turns until moist clumps form, adding more ice water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry.

2. Turn dough out onto lightly floured work surface and knead briefly just until dough comes together, 4 to 5 turns. Flatten dough into disk; wrap in plastic and chill at least 1 hour. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.
3. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll out dough on lightly floured work surface to 13-inch round. Transfer dough round to prepared baking sheet and chill 20 minutes. Using 2 1/2- to 3-inch heart-shaped or scalloped cookie cutter, cut out shapes from dough, spacing close together (leave cutouts on baking sheet). If necessary, remove dough scraps, reroll, and cut out additional shapes for total of about 20. Chill on sheet while preparing filling.
For filling:

1. Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Place peach slices in medium bowl. Add sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, and cardamom and toss to coat.
2. Transfer peach filling to 9-inch-diameter glass pie dish. Carefully arrange cutouts atop filling in slightly overlapping concentric circles, starting at edge and working toward center, covering filling completely. Brush crust with beaten egg, then sprinkle with raw sugar.
3.Place pie on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until crust is golden brown, peaches are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly at edges, about 45 minutes. Transfer pie to rack and cool at least 30 minutes. Spoon warm or room-temperature pie into bowls.

****EASILY skin peaches by blanching them... that is, pop them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, transfer to iced water for 30 seconds and watch those skins come off like butter with just the slightest rub down. It took me a mashed peach and a quick Google to figure this out.

You probably won't believe me that I didn't burn it since I didn't get a good pic of the full post-baked product. But, trust me. It came out golden, bubbly, and thick. Delicious warm and even better cold the next day served in cups.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Chicken Breast and Zucchini Pappardelle FAIL!

It's dangerous this time of year to leave your car windows down... you're likely to end up with a backseat full of zucchini. I can't turn the stuff down fast enough so we are swimming in it and in desperate need of zucchini related recipes. I decided to try a recipe I saw in Gourmet for Chicken Breast and Zucchini Pappardelle. Uses zucchini? Check. Uses basil?!?!?! Double bonus. In the quick and easy section??? SCORE!

Somehow, I managed to overlook a slightly important detail- It's called Chicken BREAST and Zucchini Pappardelle not Chicken THIGH, stupid. Don't worry... the oversights don't end there.

For reference, here's the recipe:

Chicken Breast and Zucchini Papparedelle
Gourmet June 2009
Serves 4 ( I cut it in half in both quantity and quality!)

1 pound zucchini, trimmed
2 garlic cloves
4 boneless chicken breast halves with skin (1 1/2 pounds)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons water
1 cup torn basil leaves
S & P

Equipment: an adjustable-blade slicer

1. Shave zucchini lengthwise (1/8 inch thick) with slicer and put in a large bowl. Thinly slice garlic and reserve separately.

2. Pat chicken dry, then cut crosswise into thirds. Season all over with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers. Sauté chicken in batches, skin side down first, until browned and just cooked through, 8 to 14 minutes total. Add chicken to zucchini.

3.Add garlic to skillet and cook, stirring, until pale golden, about 1 minute. Add water and scrape up any brown bits, then drizzle over chicken. Add basil and 1/4 teaspoon salt to bowl and toss until zucchini wilts slightly. Season with salt and pepper.

See step number 2? That should have been broken down into smaller portions for me I guess because I thought I was supposed to add the zucchini to the chicken...in the skillet! Forget delicate wilting with light chicken breasts. I had a grease fest of savory chicken thighs with slippery squash ribbons. Flavor was top notch... seriously, the combo was delicious. The texture was so very wrong. It prompted Aubrey to say, "What's this called?" "It's called Chicken Breast and Zucchini Papparedelle, why?" " Now it's called Chicken Breast and Zucchini Pappardelle FAIL!"

So, lesson learned? Amending recipes is great! In fact, here are a couple tasty-sounding versions at Eat and Greet and Epicurious Reviews. So, feel free to play around in the kitchen. Just so long as your willing to accept an alternative dinner in the face of abject failure ( In my case, egg sandwiches.)

Monday, July 6, 2009

Porter Peaches

It's officially peach season and the only time of year when Porter, Oklahoma becomes a foodie destination. Though a few cities fight for the title, only Porter reigns supreme as the Peach Capital of Oklahoma (or, so it says on the water tower. OH, and I'm not kidding about this...there is a big heart painted on the side that says "Billy Bob loves .....?" I couldn't make out the second name! I bet it's Charlene.)

Porter Peaches are delicious. I bought a 1/4 peck of Redhaven as they were a bit more tart and I have baking intentions. You can also get Belaire, the sweeter variety. You DO have purchasing options to consider but I recommend Livesay Orchards as they are friendly, conveniently located to my in-laws' house, and the store is quite cute. You can even pick your own bushel by heading out to the trees.

If all this talk of sweet, juicy goodness has you jonesin' for some cobbler, you're in luck.

The annual Porter Peach Festival is on July 16th, 17th, and 18th. It's fairly artsy-crafty ( more on the crafty side,) they usually have an old car show, they crown Miss Peach, and you can catch the tractor races, too. The festivities are okay but the real thrill is the excitement in the air at all the orchards where you can buy stuff like peach salsa, BBQ sauce, jams, chutneys, butter, the works. Someday, I'll have to go to Georgia to compare!

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An Oklahoman Fourth of July!

Hope everyone had a happy and safe Independence Day!
Even though we love to get out of the U.S. as much as possible, we can go All-American with the best of them. To do so, we head DEEP into the country...that is, we go to Porter, Oklahoma. Every year, Aubrey's parents throw a pretty killer party and shoot off some serious fireworks.
Do you see that up there? Aubrey launched it. You can buy this stuff no questions asked. I'm not sure this California girl will ever get used to it:
Mmmmm, nothing like the smell of sulfur in the air to bring people together ...

Tasha Does Tulsa came out of her city shell to join the festivities, despite the high likelihood of vehicular difficulties. Last year, she popped her tire on the gravel road. Psh... city driver.

At least she didn't hit my parked car... again.

Sindy In Tulsa ventured out yonder, too. Her hubby tried to get her to ride a horse but it wasn't happening.

Activities included Four-wheeling...

Jumping off the storm shelter...

And generally awesome pyrotechnic stunts.

Thanks, Oklahoma.