Monday, May 31, 2010

Cinnamon-Sugar Muffins

I saw a show on Food Network last night called, The Best Thing I Ever Ate.  The owner of Sprinkles said she had these muffins somewhere that were coated in cinnamon-sugar and it was the best thing she has ever eaten.  It even inspired her to make a cupcake version at her bakery.  Well, it sounded pretty darn good to me too, so I decided to give it a shot.  I used a basic muffin recipe and threw in a little cinnamon and buttermilk, and here is the very tasty result.  I always keep a jar of cinnamon-sugar in my pantry because I love cinnamon-sugar toast and my family loves to put this mixture on top of their French toast instead of syrup.  So I figured this would be a hit.  And it was!
The muffins are dipped in melted butter and then rolled into the cinnamon-sugar mixture, so you have that awesome salty (from the butter) and sweet combination. These muffins are very moist and tender to begin with, but with the addition of that crunchy little coating, they are taken to a whole other level.  Love!

Cinnamon-Sugar Muffins:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon grated or ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, melted and cooled
1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
1 1/2 cups cinnamon sugar mixture

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon.
In a second bowl, whisk together, eggs, buttermilk, sugar, melted butter, and vanilla
Add the wet mixture to the dry and with a spoon, gently mix until it all the dry ingredients are moistened.  Do not over mix as this will make the muffins tough.
Divide the muffins among the muffin cups (I made 12 muffins with this)
Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of one of the larger muffins comes out clean.
Let it cool for 2-3 minutes and remove them to a wire rack to cool further.
When the muffins are cool enough to handle, dip them into the butter, and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and set on a plate.  Cover the entire muffin.  Repeat until all of your muffins are coated.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Fresh Apricot Coffee Cake

Our tree is loaded right now with ripe apricots.  This is our first Summer in this house and really, my first experience with fresh apricots.  Sure I've had them before, but never in huge amounts like this and my feelings for them were, for lack of a better word, meh.  I didn't love them or hate them. They were one of the fruits that I never really gave a second thought to.  Apricots look like mini peaches.  They even have a lightly fuzzy skin.  But their flavor is milder, sweeter, less tangy.   They are also similar to plums but the flavor is not as pronounced and strong.    They are growing on me as well as our tree, but this sudden abundance has me scrambling to find recipes.  I came across this one on All Recipes and made some adjustments according to the reviews.  The consensus seemed to be that cooked apricots became rather tart.  When eaten raw, these apricots don't have the faintest bit of sourness.   But cooked?  Holy moly!  When I took my first bite, it was a bit of a shock, but crazy as it sounds, the tartness of the fruit with the sweetness of the cake becomes unusually addictive.  I will be making this again...  probably today, because the first cake is already gone.
The recipe below is with my adjustments, which have to do with additional sugar and milk,  but the original can be found on the link above. 

Fresh Apricot Coffee Cake:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons butter
1 scant cup milk (not quite a full cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups pitted, diced apricots
1/4 cup sugar to toss with the apricots

2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large bowl, mix flour, salt and baking powder
In a separate bowl, cream 1/2 cup sugar, butter, and egg until light and fluffy
Mix in milk and vanilla until blended
Pour the wet mixture into the flour mixture and beat just until smooth
Spread batter evenly into a greased, 8-inch square baking pan
Toss the diced apricots with 1/4 cup of sugar
Sprinkle the apricots over the batter
Dust the whole thing with the cinnamon sugar topping

Bake approximately 45 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bacon and Artichoke Heart Pizza with Pineapple

A Hawaiian friend (who happens to be a chef) once informed me that putting pineapple on pizza is an abomination. Chef or no chef, he doesn't know what he's missing.  Pineapple on pizza is fabulous!  The sweetness cuts the saltiness of the rest of the toppings and the flavor is unbeatable. 
I use apple wood smoked bacon and non-marinated artichoke hearts (the canned ones packed in water) on this pizza.  I top it all off with a clipping of fresh chives and try to eat it secretly in the kitchen so I don't have to share.  But the smell always tips off the rest of the family and I have to either share and make another one, or get my hands bitten off.  It's a good thing it only takes a few minutes to make.
For the crust, I use the recipe for Pizza Napoletana  and sometimes I use mushrooms instead of artichoke hearts (My kids prefer the mushroom version).
I normally use a baking stone to make pizza, but when I use heavy toppings, I prefer to just use a baking sheet lined with a Silpat liner (you can use parchment paper).  Let me take a minute to give a shout out to my Silpat liners: You guys rock my world!  I don't know how I survived all of those years without you.  You make life easier by reducing my clean up and by ensuring that everything I cook with you is perfectly brown and crispy.  You are browned and stained, but you are still beautiful to me.  I love you.

Bacon and Artichoke Pizza with Pineapple: or Bacon and Mushroom Pizza with Pineapple:

1 portion of Pizza Napoletana dough
Mozzarella cheese
Marinara sauce (preferably homemade, but a good quality jarred will work)
3 slices of thick cut apple wood-smoked bacon, lightly cooked and crumbled into bite-sized pieces
8-10 canned, water-packed  whole artichoke hearts, cut in half  (or fresh mushrooms, sliced OR 4 oz can of mushroom pieces)
1/2 cup golden pineapple, cut into bite-sized pieces
Chives, snipped over the top

Preheat oven to 475 degrees
Drain and dry on paper towels, artichoke heart and pineapple (this is important for non-soggy pizza)
Form the pizza dough to the thickness and size desired right on top of the baking sheet
Layer as follows:
Marinara sauce
Artichoke hearts or mushrooms

Cook until golden brown (approx 10 to 15 minutes)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Philadelphia Style Strawberry Ice Cream

There are two basic styles of ice cream: French and American (Philadelphia).  The difference is eggs.  French-style ice cream uses egg yolks to make a custard first and is creamier and smoother.  It is also quite richer.  Philadelphia-style just uses cream and milk and is therefore lighter, but freezes harder and is a bit firmer.  I love both, but chose the Philadelphia style here because I was in the mood for a lighter ice cream.  Next time, I'll make it French-style and will love it just as much, I am sure. 
I strained my strawberry puree because my family doesn't care for seeds.  Because of this, I increased my strawberries by 1 cup. It's personal preference though and if it were just me, I would have left them in.
Because this recipe does not have the richness of the custard base, you want to make sure the fruit you use is perfect because that is what is showcased here. Taste the puree and if you find it too tart, you may want to add some superfine sugar to sweeten it up to your liking. 

Strawberry Ice Cream, Philadelphia Style
from the cookbook, The Ultimate Ice Cream Book
by Bruce Weinstein

2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
3 cups fresh strawberries
1/4 cup milk

Heat the cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat until small bubbles appear around the edge. Do not let the cream boil.  Remove from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until the sugar dissolves completely.  Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, cut the berries into quarters and place in a blender with the milk.  Blend until the berries are pureed.  Add the puree to the cooled cream.  Refrigerate until cold or overnight.  Freeze in 1 or 2 batches according to the manufacturer's instructions.  When finished, the ice cream will be soft but ready to eat.  For firmer ice cream, transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Fresh strawberries
Ready to be pureed

Cream and sugar

Straining out the seeds

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Chicken Fried Steak With Country Gravy

I used to buy the frozen pre-breaded chicken fried steak that comes with the plastic pouch of gravy that you heat separately.  To be honest, it's actually not half bad.  But the thing is, this dish is easy to make from scratch and so much less expensive.  Cubed steak is pretty cheap (3.99 per pound, and it wasn't on even sale.  Each steak cost less than $2.00 and each of us were only able to finish half a steak.).  In fact, this whole meal which was too much for my entire family of four to finish, cost less than $10.00 for all of it, including the potatoes and green beans.  So how's that for a cheap, hearty meal?   And let's face it, chicken fried steak, while not the healthiest of meals, is awesome!

Chicken Fried Steak:
*Each cubed steak was about half a pound and each of those were cut in half.  Two pieces (1 steak) will feed 1 very hungry person, but most will probably only eat one if served with all the fixin's
**Instead of draining fried meat on paper towels, I like to use a wire rack set inside a baking sheet.  This will ensure that the steak stays crispy.  If you leave the fried steak on paper towels, they tend to re-absorb the oil from the paper towels and get soggy.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds cubed steak
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon each-garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper
Black pepper to taste
Additional salt and pepper to season meat
Vegetable oil for frying.

Cut each cubed steak in half and season lightly with salt and pepper
In a pie plate or flat bowl, beat eggs and milk
In a separate plate, mix flour with seasonings
For each steak:
Dredge in flour mixture
Dip in egg mixture
Dredge in flour again
Dip in egg again
End with another dredge in the flour and set aside.

Heat oil in a large skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium high heat.  Fry 3 pieces of meat at a time until they get golden brown and turn over to cook the other side.  Drain over a wire rack.

Country Gravy:

1/4 cup of the same oil you used to cook steak
1/3 cup of flour
Approximately 2 cups of milk
Salt and pepper to taste

After frying all of the steak, pour off most of the grease, leaving about 1/4 cup.  Sprinkle the flour over the grease and using a whisk, mix the flour with the grease making a loose roux.  When the mixture is a golden color, slowly pour in milk, while continuing to whisk.  The gravy will become thick.  Add more milk if necessary to keep the gravy from getting too thick.  Season with salt and pepper.  This should be enough gravy for all of your steak and some mashed potatoes. 

Cubed steak.  This is about half a pound.  You want to cut this in half.
Here is the wire rack set inside of a rimmed baking sheet.

This is what approximately 1/4 cup of oil looks like
Then you add your flour
The roux

Quick Peach Cobbler

Peach cobblers I have had have been really-really good, or really-really bad.  I love a soft, fluffy, cake-like topping; not a big fan of overly sweet, crisp or sugar cookie type toppings. And the filling has to be perfectly sweet, not tart, or overly sugary.  Picky, picky.  In non-peach season, I prefer to use canned peaches.  Most are canned at their perfect ripeness so I don't have to worry about having a tart/sour cobbler and also, I don't add sugar to the filling as it is already sweet enough.  Topped with a dollup of whipped cream, it is a wonderful ending to any meal. 

Peach Cobbler:

5 cups peeled, pitted, thinly sliced peaches or 1 pound (2 large cans or 1 jar) canned peaches, drained (reserving the canning syrup)
1/3 cup sugar (if using fresh peaches, omit sugar if using canned)
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup water (or 1/4 cup canning syrup if using canned)
2 tablespoons butter, cut in small pieces

1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons butter

Preheat oven to 375
Lighty butter or spray with cooking spray, a baking dish (8 inch or 1 liter)
Combine peaches with syrup or water, sugar, 2 tablespoons flour, cinnamon and vanilla.  Stir together and pour into the baking dish.  Top with butter pieces.

Combine the topping ingredients in a different bowl and spoon evently over the peaches. 
Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the topping is a golden brown.

This is the brand of peaches I used.  I prefer the fruit in these jars rather than cans.  I think they taste better, but that may just be me.

Here is the peach mixture

Friday, May 14, 2010

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas

I joined the The Daring Cooks and The Daring Bakers and this was my first challenge.  Our hosts this month, Barbara of Barbara Bakes and Bunnee of Anna+Food have chosen a delicious Stacked Green Chile & Grilled Chicken Enchilada recipe in celebration of Cinco De Mayo! The recipe, featuring a homemade enchilada sauce was found on www.fine and written by Robb Walsh.

Stacked Green Chili and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas:

1½ pounds Fresh Anaheim chiles (about eight 6 to 8 inch chiles) 24 ounces 678 grams - roast, peel, remove seeds, chop coarsely. Other green chiles (NOT bell peppers) could probably be substituted but be conscious of heat and size!)
7-8 ounces Tomatillos (about 4-5 medium)212 grams - peel, remove stems
4 cups Chicken broth (32 ounces/920 grams)
1 clove Garlic, minced
2 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ tsp Kosher salt (add more to taste)
¼ tsp Black Pepper (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons Cornstarch (dissolve in 2 tablespoons water, for thickening)
Hot sauce, your favorite, optional
2 Boneless chicken breasts (you can also use bone-in chicken breasts or thighs)
3 tablespoons Olive oil or other neutral vegetable oil (use more as needed)
Kosher salt and pepper
12 Small Corn tortillas (5-6 inch/13-15 cm). (you can also use wheat tortillas or other wraps)
6 ounces grated Monterrey Jack, 170 grams (other cheeses (cheddar, pepper jack, Mexican cheeses) can be used. Just be sure they melt well and complement the filling)
Cilantro for garnish, chopped and sprinkled optional

Roasting Fresh Chiles:
1. Coat each chile with a little vegetable oil. If you are doing only a couple chiles, using the gas stove works. For larger batches (as in this recipe), grilling or broiling is faster.
2. Lay the oiled chiles on the grill or baking sheet (line pan with foil for simpler clean-up). Place the grill or broil close to the element, turning the chiles so they char evenly. They should be black and blistered.
3. As they are completely charred (they will probably not all be done at once), remove them to a bowl and cover with plastic, or close up in a paper bag. Let them rest until they are cool.
4. Pull on the stem and the seed core MAY pop out (it rarely does for me). Open the chile and remove the seeds. Turn the chile skin side up and with a paring knife, scrape away the skin. Sometimes it just pulls right off, sometimes you really have to scrape it.

Green Chile Sauce:

1. Put a medium saucepan of water on to boil and remove the papery outer skin from the tomatillos. Boil the tomatillos until soft, 5 to 10 minutes. You can also grill the tomatillos until soft.
2. Drain and puree in a blender or food processor.
3. Return the tomatillos to the saucepan along with the chicken broth, chopped green chile's, minced onion, oregano, garlic, salt and pepper.
4. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Add the cornstarch/water mixture and stir well. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and reduced to 4-5 cups, another 10-15 minutes.
6. Adjust seasonings and add hot sauce if you want a little more heat.

Stacked Green Chile and Grilled Chicken Enchiladas:

1. Heat a gas grill to medium high or build a medium-hot charcoal Coat the chicken with olive oil and season well with salt and pepper. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, 4-5 minutes a side for boneless chicken breasts.
3. Cool and then slice into thin strips or shred.
4. In a small skillet, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Dip the edge of a tortilla into the oil to check – it should sizzle immediately.
5. Using tongs, put a tortilla into the pan and cook until soft and lightly brown on each side, about 15-20 seconds per side (at the most).
6. Drain on paper towels.
7. Add oil as needed and continue until all 12 tortillas are done.
8. In a baking dish large enough to hold four separate stacks of tortillas, ladle a thin layer of sauce.
9. Lay four tortillas in the dish and ladle another ½ cup (4 ounces/112 grams) of sauce over the tortillas.
10. Divide half the chicken among the first layer of tortillas, top with another ½ cup of sauce and 1/3 of the grated cheese.
11. Stack another four tortillas, top with the rest of the chicken, more sauce and another third of the cheese.
12. Finish with the third tortilla, topped with the remaining sauce and cheese.
13. Bake until the sauce has thickened and the cheese melted, about 20 minutes. Let rest for 5-10 minutes.
14. To serve, transfer each stack to a plate. Spoon any leftover sauce over the stacks and sprinkle with cilantro, if you wish. The stacks may also be cooked in individual gratin dishes.

This recipe was yummy.  The rules did allow for some substitutions so I used New Mexico roasted chiles and grilled pork instead of chicken.  Other than that, I followed the recipe.  I loved the little bit of tang that the tomatillos added to the sauce and will continue using it in my enchiladas from now on.  This was a big hit with the family and although the recipe looks time consuming, it really wasn't too bad.  Thumbs up!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sesame-Encrusted Seared Ahi

My favorite fish is ahi.  I love it raw; I love it seared; I love it in sushi rolls.  This is an amazingly flavorful and simple way of preparing ahi. 

Sesame-Encrusted Seared Ahi:

1/2 cup white sesame seeds
1/2 cup black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon wasabi powder
1 tablespoon sesame oil
Kosher salt
2 pieces tuna loin (about 8 oz each), cut in half
*serves 2 hungry eaters, or 4 light eaters

Combine sesame seeds and wasabi powder in a bowl and lightly salt and pepper the mixture.
Heat large pan on medim high and drizzle with sesame oil.
Salt tuna lightly and coat in the seed mixture
Reduce heat to medium and sear tuna on all sides until lightly browned (about 2 minutes)

(Day 4- 7 upper body/TKB)

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Thai Beef Salad (Yum Nuah)

I will admit upfront that I cannot stand Thai restaurant food.  However, I took a Thai cooking class about 20 yrs ago, and everything that I made from the class was fabulous so I can't say that I dislike Thai food.  The great thing about homemade is that you can adjust ingredients like sugar and omit flavors that you don't care for.

This is a recipe for a hot and sour beef salad.  The fresh lime juice in the dressing is amazing.  You can adjust the heat according to your taste preference.  If you want it hotter, you can use fresh red Serrano chili, chopped.  Or if you prefer a milder version, you can use dried crushed red pepper.  This is another addictive salad.  But it's not a meal to feel guilty about.

Thai Beef Salad
2 pounds steak ( I used rib eye, sirloin would work well also)
Juice of 1 juicy lime (about 1/4 cup)
1 large tomato, sliced thin
2 stems green onion, chopped fine (white and green parts)
4 stalks cilantro, chopped fine (optional)
1 tablespoon red crushed chili
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 small head of lettuce (I used mixed baby greens)

Broil steak in oven until it is done the way you like it (mine is medium well, although the picture would have been prettier if it were medium rare).  Slice thin.
In medium bowl, combine lime juice, fish sauce, green onion, cilantro, and red chili
First toss the beef slices in the sauce, and set aside.
Then toss the lettuce and tomato in the sauce and arrange on a plate with beef slices on top.

(Day 3- 8/lower body, TKB)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Children's Day Tea Party

Happy Children's Day!! 

Since it happened to be a minimum school day for my kids, I thought I would surprise them with a tea party.  We had four different kinds of tea sandwiches and chocolate covered strawberries.  What can I say, it made them happy.  And their happiness is what this day is supposed to celebrate.

My daughter was so happy she burst into tears and my son said that this was the best Wednesday of his life.  I love it when they are this grateful over something so small:)

Tea Sandwiches:

Cucumber with cream cheese
Mediterranean salmon salad
  Sockeye salmon, chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, chopped Kalamata olives, olive oil vinaigrette
Pesto with chicken
Chicken Salad

Cut off crusts and cut sandwiches into bite size pieces.
Here's the pesto with chicken
And the salmon

(9 cardio/abs)
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