30 May 2013

Caramel Cataclysm at Charlie's Coffeehouse



Caramel Cataclysm Bars from Sunshine by Robin McKinley

I read this book years ago, right after it came out and somehow the story really stuck with me.  So I read it again and even bought the Audible version (bad idea, the narration was terrible).

I guess it was the realness of the story, a young woman, after a tiring and stressful day at the family bakery decides to drive out to the lake and sit on the porch of her grandmother's old home.  The house hasn't been lived in for years and is starting to fall apart.  In fact all the homes around the lake have been abandoned by their owners.

You see, the lake is in a known vampire area.  Or at least it was, no one's seen a vampire at the lake in years.

Yep, this world has vampires and magic and a lot of other things that go bump in the night.

Before you start thinking Sunshine is suicidal, she never planned on staying after dark.  After all, vamps cant come out in the daytime.

The story moves along at a fast pace and I was sorry to see it end.

Best of all are the descriptions of tasty treats; cinnamon rolls as big as your head, pear gingerbread, zebra bars and honeycakes.  Frankly, all of it sounded good to me.

But the caramel cataclysm sounded the most interesting.  There's no real description for this one, so I had to make mine up, here it is my version;

Caramel Cataclysm Bars
based on this recipe caramel bar

For the crust;

1 lb butter, softened (yep, a POUND!)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 Tbsp vanilla
4 cups all purpose flour

For the Dulce de Leche Caramel filling;

Dulce de Leche (the lazy, sneaky, cheater, I-don't-want-to-use-my-candy-
thermometer way)

Ingredients:
2 cans, sweetened condensed milk

Equipment:
One large pot
water
stove

1.  Place cans in pot (remove paper labels)

2.  Fill water till it is at least three inches above the cans.

3.  Bring the water to a boil then turn down to a bubbly simmer for 4 hours.  Make sure water is always three inches above cans or else!*

5.  Cool cans in water (the same water you boiled them in, don't add cool water to the pan!) by turning the heat off and sliding pot to a cool burner.

6.  Next morning, somehow, I always end up doing this at night, remove cans from the cool water and test one by opening it, inside the sticky sweet condensed milk will have magically turned to a lovely bronze'y caramel.

* the cans could explode if you don't keep them covered with water, good luck!

Making the crust:

1.  Preheat the oven to 325.  In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add the vanilla and then the flour and mix.

2.  Line a 9"x13" pan with aluminum foil or parchment, leave part hanging over the long sides and then spray the pan lightly with oil.  Press 1/3 of the crust into the bottom of the pan.  Place the remainder of the crust into the refrigerator for later.

3.  Bake the crust for 20 minutes and allow to cool for about 30 minutes.  

Assembly of the bars.

1.  Once the crust is cool enough, spread 1 1/2 cans of the caramel over the crust (eat the rest when no one is looking).

2.  Remove the refrigerated crust dough and crumble it over the top of the caramel, don't worry about the lumpy, uneven appearance, this is what makes these bars so tasty.

3.  Bake the bars for 25-30 minutes, or until the crumble topping looks golden.

4.  Allow bars to cool, in the pan, for about an hour, then pull the parchment/aluminum foil tabs up to remove the bars from the pan.  The bars will still be warm, so it is best to wait an hour (or more) for them to cool fully before cutting them into single servings.


08 September 2012

Goulash at the Poison Kitchen Cafe



Legend has it that back in the Middle Ages, the cook lost his mind and murdered the whole priory with a poisoned vat of goulash, hence the cafe's ghoulish name and signature dish: goulash of course.

from Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Poison optional
I'd never eaten goulash before.  I thought I had.  My grandma, aka The World's Worst Chef, sorry Greema, but when the dog prefers dry kibble to your table scraps, well, there you go.  Anyways, Grandma liked to make what she called Goulash, it had lima beans, canned potatoes, ground beef, tomatoes and ketchup, all mixed up and served in bowls with little handles on the side. 

Naturally after this early introduction to 'goulash' I wasn't eager to recreate it.  But just for fun, I decided to look it up.

As it turns out, goulash, the real stuff, is very different.  It's also the national dish of Hungary and thankfully it does not contain lima beans or ketchup.  There are many variations and I suspect every Hungarian Grandma has her own time honored version.

I tried to find the most authentic and ended up combining several recipes I found online.

I hope you give goulash a try, it is very edible.

Gather the ingredients

Toast the Caraway Seeds
Set the browned meat aside for later

Cook the spices and onions into a sticky goulash-y mirepoix

Stew the goulash over a low heat
 
Hungarian Goulash

1 pound lean beef, cubed
1- 1/2 onion, chopped (use what you have on hand, I had a white and a yellow)
3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
1 bay leaf
3 Tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 Tbsp Caraway seeds, roasted over medium heat till fragrant (about two minutes) then ground till powdery
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cups chicken stock (homemade is best, but canned will work too)
1 tbsp fresh thyme and 1 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves (confession, I forgot to add them!)  I'm sure they would have really added to the dish, but it was still super good without.)

Directions:

1.  Heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil in a dutch oven or large frying pan (one that has a tight fitting lid) over medium high heat.

2.  Sprinkle the meat cubes with salt, pepper and ground caraway.  Drop the meat into the pan and sear the cubes on all sides (ifyour pan isn't very wide, do this in steps, setting the finished meat aside when you are done).

3.  Remove meat from the pan and add onions.  Sweat the onions over medium high heat for five minutes.  Then add the garlic, stir constantly for one minute then add the paprika, bay leaf and tomato paste.  The mixture will turn dark and sticky fast, so keep an eye on it and after about two minutes add the chicken stock.  Stir stir stir and bring to a light boil.

4.  Add the meat back into the pot and bring the goulash back to a boil, then turn the heat down to a low simmer (that's between the 2 and 3 on my electric range), cover the pot and set a timer for one hour.

5.  When the hour is up, remove the lid, add the balsamic and allow the goulash to cook down a bit.  The juices will thicken and the meat will become fork tender.  I thought this would take just 15 or 20 minutes, but I guess the meat I bought was a bit tougher because this step took almost 45 minutes.

6.  Spoon the meat with sauce over noodles, rice or  Kale Mashed Potatoes aka Colcannon with a dollop of sour cream on top.  Mmmm, very tasty and the leftovers were even better.
 

01 June 2012

Bilbo Baggins Seed Cake

"But I don't mind some cake -- seed-cake, if you have any."


"Lots!"  Bilbo found himself answering, to his own surprise; and he found himself scuttling off, too, to the cellar to fill a pint beer-mug, and then to a pantry to fetch two beautiful round seed-cakes which he had baked that afternoon for his after-supper morsel.

Seed-cake, according to the Annotated version of The Hobbit, is a sweetened cake with caraway seeds.  Finding a cake with caraway was a bit of a stretch, so I had to settle for a poppy lemon cake that I found here http://www.councilofelrond.com/recipe/bilbos-poppy-seed-cake-v/

One of my favorite scenes in the book is where all the dwarves show up at Bilbo's and overwhelm him with requests for food and drink.  Hospitality among hobbits being what it is, Bilbo swallows his annoyance and tries to please all of his guests.

Seed cake always sounded the most interesting of all the foods on offer so I've been waiting years to make it (don't know why it took so long).  So here it is, seed cake from the shire.



Bilbo Baggins Seed Cake
adapted from a recipe found at The Council of Elrond

1/2 cup poppy seeds
1 cup milk
1/2 lb butter (2 sticks)
1 cup sugar (white or brown)
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat
2 Tbsp caraway seeds
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla (I used coffee flavoring, its all I had in the cabinet!)
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
the zest of one lemon

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 and butter a bundt or tube pan.



2. Heat milk and poppy seeds to a low simmer, cook for about four minutes, careful not to boil the milk.  Remove from the heat and set aside.

3.  In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar, add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. 



4.  Sift together dry ingredients in a separate bowl and carefully add butter-sugar mix alternately with the cooled milk-poppy mixture and the lemon juice, rind and vanilla until everything is just mixed enough to add to the prepped pan.

5.  Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when the cake is tested.  Serve with ale, coffee or milk.



28 March 2012

Garfield's Meatball Lasagna



I don't remember when I discovered Garfield.  It must have been at my Grandma Leona's place, she always got the Sunday paper and I liked to read the 'funnies' while she read the sales ads (most for stores we didn't have in our tiny little town, strange now that I think about it) .  Garfield was far and above, my favorite.

Later, I worked as a library aide at my middle school and found out that Garfield was just as popular there as it was at my grandma's place.  Almost a third of everything I had to reshelve was Garfield comic books, they far outnumbered the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novels or the Sweet Valley High books (remember Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield?).

If you know Garfield at all, then you know he has a deep and abiding love of lasagna.  My son insisted I make lasagna after reading five Garfield books back to back.

I wasn't terribly enthused about it, I'm not a big fan of lasagna.  My mother used to make it when I was a kid;  noodles, layered with ground beef mixed with prego and ricotta, then a pound of mozzarella on top, ugh.

It was filling but bland and I guess my taste in food has changed, because the thought of eating mom's lasagna sounded about as enticing as a bowl of warm milk.

So I cruised online looking for a better recipe.  My son found a pic of a meatball version and I was excited, it looked so different, so textured, dare I say, stylish?

So here it is, cobbled together from several different sources.

Garfield's Meatball Lasagna

Meatballs

1/2 lb. ground pork
1/2 lb. ground beef
1 cup bread crumbs
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 Tbsp. parsley
1 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup milk

1.  Preheat oven to 400 and cover a baking sheet with parchment or lightly oiled foil.  Mix everything in a large bowl, then form into 1 inch balls and place an inch apart on the baking sheet.

2.  Bake for 12 minutes then remove from oven, allow to cool (they freeze great too) and then set aside while you make the sauces (I put mine in the refrigerator).

The Noodles

Don't read the package instructions.

Simple fill a pan with hot water and layer the noodles into it while you make sauces, open jars and file your nails.  Easy peasy, no colander, no boiling water in a vast cauldron that will fill your house with steam.


Ricotta Cheese Filling

1 lb Ricotta
1 tsp. parsley
1 egg, beaten
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup shredded mozarella cheese

1.  Mix everything together in a medium sized bowl and then set aside.

Bechamel Sauce

For the Roux
3 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. flour

2 Cups Milk - I used 1%
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

1.  Melt butter in a saucepan over medium low heat.

2.  Sprinkle the flour on top and stir stir stir so it doesn't burn.  Cook the roux until it is the color of caramel.

3.  Slowly whisk in milk.  bring to a simmer and continue whisking until the sauce begins to thicken.  When it coats the whisk , turn the heat to low and cook for another couple of minutes.  Sprinkle on the nutmeg and set aside.

Red Sauce

One jar of your favorite marinara sauce or make this;

For the Soffritto

one small stalk celery with leaves, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes - or to taste
1/2 carrot, chopped
1/4 cup raisins or currants 
1/4 cup bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1/4 cup white wine or red (I've liked both in this, use whatever you have, even beer would work, it's a flexible dish)

1.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When the oil is hot enough to sizzle, drop the soffrito, except the wine, garlic and red pepper,  into the pot.  Stir to keep things from sticking, for about five minutes.  Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for an additional two minutes, stirring constantly.

2.  Pour the wine in and scrape up all the tiny bits, before all the wine burns away add the Sauce ingredients.

For the Sauce

2 14oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. dried sage
1/2  tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
pinch of rosemary

1.  Add everything to the pot and give it a stir.  Bring to a slow simmer and then cover, turn the heat to low and cook for an hour.

2.  Remove from the heat and allow to cool for pureeing (or you could leave it chunky, whatever).  I use my blender for this process, mostly because my food processor is harder to clean, but the processor would make for a nicer grind, so use whatever makes your toes curl.

To assemble the lasagna

In a large pan, 14 x 8 is what I used, spread a thin layer of red sauce.  Top this with the noodles (they should still be crunchy, don't worry, they'll be perfect when the lasagna is done baking).

Cover the noodles with a thin layer of ricotta, then a few meatballs.  Then again with the red sauce and a layer of noodles, till you end with noodles and spoon the bechamel last of all.

Here's where you sprinkle the grated cheese.  I was feeling fancy, so I used a combo of parmesan, fontina and mozzarella.

Bake in a preheated oven at 400 for thirty minutes.

Just a note, making all of this in one day is well, a little bit crazy daunting, I cheated and made the sauce and meatballs ahead of time.

I measured out 32 ounces or about four cups and refroze the rest.
The sauce and meatballs freeze well. 

Enjoy!

29 February 2012

Vulture Pizza

"I would much rather work with you.  When I work with Miguel, all he does is slack off.  Plus, He's always making vulture pies"  Vulture pies are pizzas so bad they're suitable only for vultures or employees.

from The Night She Disappeared by  April Henry

One of my closest friends loves true crime fiction, especially books about serial killers. Over the years she's pressed me to read books about Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy and the nightmare inducing, Jeffrey Dahmer, my response has always been the same, 'hell no!'

I like happy endings, sexy vampires, angsty werewolves, cozy mysteries and the occasional zombie infestation. But stories about something real, monsters who look like people but walk among us, picking out their next feast from among their neighbors and coworkers, shudder, those stories are not for me.

But there was something about the setup for this story that made me think I might just want to read this book. It has teens who work in a fast food setting (I worked at a restaurant whose claim to fame was flame broiled burgers, so already I've got a built in sense of kinship with the characters), the teens aren't all the best of friends and one of them goes missing after making a delivery (a close friend of mine used to deliver sandwiches and he used to tell me some pretty strange tales of the people he met on his nightly travels, sometimes I'd worry that even though he's six plus feet of urban cowboy, what if one of his customers had a gun or a boomerang, okay, maybe not a boomerang, that'd be strange and ridiculous, still it seemed dangerous).

Plus, I figured if the book got too intense, I could just slam it shut and shove it into my NEVER TO BE READ SHELF (this shelf is more of a corner, with a stack of out of date encyclopedias, a book about sugar free desserts, David Hasselhoff's memoir, you know books that have somehow wandered into your home, never to be opened).

Well, after I started, I found it very hard to stop reading.

If you read the synopsis you already know what's going on in the beginning of the book. So let me tell you a little about what happens next.

The story is told from multiple perspectives, I knew this going in, but didn't realize it would also be told from the point of view of Kayla (the kidnapped girl) and The Man (the dude who kidnaps her). Just a note on The Man, hearing his thoughts is like taking a giant breath, in through your nose, in a boys locker room on a hot day, shocking and nausea inducing, definitely not for the faint of heart.

The same for Kayla, in fact, part way through the book, I almost set it aside because it was too personal, too upsetting and altogether too realistic, but since it is early in the day, I figured I could finish the book with plenty of buffer time before bed to read and watch happier things (Spongebob, here I come!).

But with the ending the way it was, I actually didn't need my happy place buffer. I feel okay, satisfied even.

Anyways, about the characters, a small warning, Gabie irritated me and sometimes I thought that a a month or six of talk therapy with a licensed psychologist would have done her a world of good. The girl swings from quiet, shy reserve to uninhibited, naked swims in frigid rivers craziness and frankly, her wild mood swings were more alarming than endearing to me. This current drama with the kidnapping sent her for a loop (a fruit loop, my grandma would say, don't know why she said that and it doesn't make a lot of sense now).

But, Drew, he's my favorite. His mom's an addict and his homelife isn't much to dream about, his job at Pete's pizza isn't for spending money, it's to buy food, utilities and rent. Unlike Gabie, whose parents are both trauma surgeons, he doesn't have a car and a nice house, so when she offers him the use of her car to make deliveries, thus enabling him to keep his hours, he's happy but surprised. He and Gabie are not close, she's a serious Honor Roll student and he's a pot dealing, C average student, in other words, a loser.

The interactions between Drew and Gabie are intense. These are two people drawn together by tragic circumstances and a shared belief, that Gabie was the kidnapper's intended target and that Kayla is not dead.

The police in the book seem to mostly follow up dead and unlikely leads, the story follows the investigations, including the interrogation of someone whose been implicated in Kayla's disappearance based on an anonymous tip. The contrast between the investigation, Drew and Gabie's research and Kayla and the Man's horrible interactions really gave a sense of urgency to the story.

I can't really say anymore about the book without giving away too much.

I'll just end with, read this book, you'll be hooked from page one.

If you feel the need to nosh while reading about all this pizza-serial-killer-drama, try this recipe;

For the Dough, based on a recipe from Steamy Kitchen (check it out here no knead dough )which is based on a recipe by Jim Lahey, the king of no knead pizzas

3 cups flour (I used all purpose)
1/2 rounded teaspoon sea salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon dry yeast
1 1/2 cups cool water.

Directions;

1.  Mix the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl.  Add the water and using your hands mix up into a sorta raggy dough.

2.  Put the raggy dough into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set somewhere cool overnight.

 3.  Go to bed, dream about George Clooney stopping by to eat bon bons and watch reruns of Buffy the Vampire Slayer with you.  When you wake up in the morning your dough will look puffy and bloated.

4. Stretch the dough out into vaguely pizza'ish shapes and top with your favorite pizza bits*.

Anchovies, Doctor Sexy's favorite pizza topping.


5.  Bake  at 450 for ten minutes, depending on how many toppings and how thin your dough is, you might need to bake for five to ten minutes more.

6.  Enjoy!

* Okay, so the original recipe has you putting the dough on a kitchen towel and a few other things, that I totally skip.  I know, I know, I shouldn't do that, but I'm a big time procrastinator and have just never gotten around to following each and every step of this recipe.  So, anyways, do what your heart tells you.

04 February 2012

Martian Manhunters Favorite Cheesecake

Now that there's an Avengers movie coming out (Yay!) I'm wondering if there will ever be a Justice League movie (fingers crossed).  Imagine it, there's a Superman reboot coming next year, if the movie peoples followed the same formula as the Avengers we could see a Wonderwoman, Flash, Martian Manhunter and maybe even an Aquaman movie.  CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT?!

Anyways, John Jones, the human incarnation (avatar, whatever) of Martian Manhunter loves oreos, so after I made this cheesecake I thought, 'bet Martian Manhunter would love this!'

I don't think you need me to tell you how incredibly delicious these are.  I have to say that this is the best cheesecake I've ever had.  Just a word of warning, my son and hubby tried a piece before the bars had cooled in the fridge and they didn't like them AT ALL.  Turns out, warm cheesecake is kinda gross.  Toss these into the fridge for a few hours (I know it's hard to wait, but there's no way around it this time, believe me on this one).

Martian Manhunter's Oreo Cheesecake
adapted from a recipe at Annie's Eats here; oreo cheesecake brownies

For the crust:
One Box of Famous Chocolate Wafers
2 tbsp. butter, melted


For the cheesecake:
12 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
6 tbsp. sugar
6 tbsp. sour cream, at room temperature
½ tsp. vanilla extract
¼ tsp. salt
1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
15 Oreo cookies, broken in half and quarters

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 325˚ F.  Line an 8 x 8-inch baking dish with foil or if you're super lazy like me, spray it liberally with cooking spray.

2. To make the crust, place the chocolate wafers and melted butter in the bowl of a food processor.  Process, pulsing, until the cookies are finely ground.  Taste it, taste again just to confirm that, yes, it really is that scrumptious, then transfer the crumbly goodness to your prepared baking dish.

3.  Press the crumbs down until you have an even layer.

4.  Add the cream cheese to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment or plop it into a bowl and use your hand held electric mixer on low.  Beat  until light and smooth, about 2 minutes.  Mix in the sugar until well combined.  Blend in the sour cream, vanilla and salt.  Beat in the egg and egg yolk on medium-high speed until incorporated, scraping down the bowl as needed.  Stir in the chopped Oreos with a rubber spatula.

Be careful, if the oreos are too crushed your cheesecake will turn gray and will have a weird gritty texture, you'll have to eat that one by yourself, probably in a dark closet with a flashlight and make a second one for friends and family.


5.  Pour the cheesecake batter over the prepared crust, smoothing the top with a spatula.  Bake for about 40 minutes, until the cheesecake is set around the edges but slightly wobbly in the center.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool about 1 hour to room temperature.  Cover the pan and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours.

To cut the bars, pull the cake from the pan by lifting the foil up out of the pan or cut them out one by one if you didn't use foil.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

21 January 2012

Dinner at the Green Dragon


Tonight's Menu

Shire Salt Roasted Game Hens
Farmer Maggot's Roast Carrots, Mushrooms and Assorted Root Vegetables
Salt Crusted Blue Cheese Po-ta-toes
The Finest Sparkling Grape Cider - by the Pint


Shire Salt Roasted Game Hens

3 Cornish Game hens, gizzards and other innards removed
3 tsp. Olive Oil, divided

Salt Spice Mixture

1/2 Tbspn. Sea Salt

1/2 tsp. lemon zest
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. granulated garlic
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp. thyme leaves, dried


Directions:

Preheat Oven to 350.  Rub oil over the entire surface of the birds then divide the Salt Herb Mixture among the hens.

Place hens, breast side up into a prepared pan with a rack and roast for 1 hour, basting occasionally.


Salt Crusted Po-ta-toes


One pound of tiny red potatoes, washed and dried
2 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1 1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
A few sprinkles of cracked black pepper (just eyeball it)
1/2 cup blue cheese crumbles

Directions:

1.  Toss everything in a bowl until every potato is coated.  Then spread the potatoes onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.

2.  Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

3.  Turn oven to broil and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes until the skins are crisped up and salt has left tiny dried white spots on the surface of the potatoes.

4.  Pour potatoes into a serving dish and sprinkle the blue cheese crumbles over the top, give it a quick stir and cover with a dishtowel until ready to serve.

Don't eat me!

Farmer Maggot's Roasted Carrots, Mushrooms and Assorted Root Vegetables

7 or 8 mushrooms cut in half (quarter if you have large mushrooms)
3 large carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks
2 rutabagas, cut into one inch chunks and tough stems removed
4 or five small turnips, cut into 1 inch chunks

1/2 cup flat leaf parsley, just the leaves
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. Chile Oil  (in the Asian foods section)
2 tsp. thyme leaves. dried
1 tsp. oregano leaves, dried
1/2 tsp. black pepper
7 cloves garlic, cut in half or quarters, depending on the size
1/2 tsp. sage, dried

Directions:

1.  Toss everything into a bowl and give it a good stir, being sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl.

2.  Spread the seasoned veggies onto a parchment lined baking sheet - don't crowd them, spread them out so that they are in one layer.

3.  Bake at 400 for 30 minutes or until fork tender.

4.  Turn oven to broil and cook for an additional 2-4 minutes or until the edges turn golden.

5.  Serve immediately.

Get your kiddo to draw a sign to set the mood.

20 January 2012

Pink Naan

Food should be more colorful, right?

 As I was kneading the lavender+pink dough (okay, I admit it, it was  puce, is there a more repulsive word for pinky purple?)  I started to have a deja book feeling, you know where something you are doing reminds you of a book you've read.

I suddenly realized I was thinking about Touch of Frost by Jennifer Estep, in particular, Daphne, the valkyrie with pink mojo.  Actually everything about Daphne is pink.  Aha, I should call these pink valkyrie naan, 'cept valkyries probably don't eat naan since they are mythological goddesses of Norse mythology, they'd probably eat lefse, hmm, oh well, the whole pink part was a bit modern too so it doesn't really matter.

It's not that regular Naan isn't great, but pink naan, must be a teensy bit better or this is what Jennifer does when she gets bored and bought too many purple yams at the Asian grocery.

Anyways, these were tasty naan and healthy too (yams are a superfood or something).

Purple Yam Pink Naan

2/3 cup cooked, cooled and mashed purple yam

1/3 cup plain yogurt or milk

1 cup warm water (add a tablespoon or two if your dough is too tough to knead)

1 tsp. sugar or honey, whatever makes you silly

1 tsp. salt

1 3/4 tsp. dry active yeast

2 cups white whole wheat flour (you could sub regular whole wheat, but the color will mask the lovely purple yams less purple-y)

1 cup all purpose flour

1 tbsp. light olive oil or canola or grapeseed oil (use whatever oil you like, it won't really matter).

1.  In a small bowl mix sugar and warm water.  Sprinkle yeast on top and set aside for ten minutes or until frothy and bubbly.

2.  In a medium bowl mix the yams, yogurt, oil and salt.

3.  In a large bowl mix the flours.  Add the water yeast mixture and the yam yogurt mix, knead into a soft dough, don't worry if your dough shows little flecks of purple yam, the bread will still turn out.  Knead the dough for about six minutes or until it is less tacky.

5.  Place dough into a greased bowl and cover with plastic wrap.  Place bowl in a warm location (like the microwave) and allow to rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until doubled. 

6.  Punch dough down and let it rest while you get the griddle ready.  I have an electric griddle and griddled the breads at 375, but this bread would turn out in the oven too if you prefer (set your oven to 400 and bake each bread for three minutes, flip, then cook for two minutes more).

It's pink, like a carebear!
7.  The dough will begin to bubble up and the edges will turn golden, flip and cook the other side until it looks golden in spots.

8.  Eat them warm slathered with butter or with hummus or for a really colorful meal, with red lentils, mmmm.

23 September 2011

The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: Bette Davis' Red Flannel Hash

Her gravestone says, "She did it the hard way," but she made it all look so easy.

from The Dead Celebrity Cookbook: A Resurrection of Recipes From More than 145 Stars of Stage and Screen by Frank DeCaro (on sale everywhere 3 October 2011).

There are lots of fun recipes here, Elizabeth Taylor's Chicken with Avocado and Mushrooms, Gene Roddenberry's Lima Beans and Ham, Mabel King's Banana Fritters, Patrick Swayze's Chicken Pot Pie, Dom Deluise's Doodlewoppers and Madeline Kahn's Foot Cookies (no feet involved, only sugar, flour and regular cookie stuff)

Bette Davis was my Grandma Florence's second favorite actress (Debbie Reynolds was her first).  When I was twelve, I came down with a bad case of bronchitis right before Thanksgiving vacation and my grandma stayed with me while my mother and stepfather left town to visit family.

Grandma wasn't a great cook, in fact, she was famous for her dreadful cooking (peanut butter and mint jelly sandwiches, buttered pizza, crunchy apple marshmallow strudel) so we ate jello, crackers and store bought pumpkin pie while watching old movies.  I remember staying up late (my cough medicine made sleeping difficult) and watching A Pocketful of Miracles with Grandma, we both cried at the end (it is such a sweet movie, you really should check it out if you haven't seen it before).

Here's Bette Davis' Red Flannel Hash
from The Dead Celebrity Cookbook by Frank Decaro

2 cups cooked corned beef

3 cups cold boiled potatoes

1 1/2 cups cooked beets.

salt and pepper to taste

1/2 cup or more of cream

1/2 stick butter

Chop all ingredients and combine in a large bowl.  Season to taste and moisten mixture with cream.  Place in a hot buttered skillet.  Stir and spread evenly in pan.  Brown slowly over medium heat.  Serve with Poached eggs on top.

Sounds nummy, right?

This is my adaptation; with extreme liberties taken for modern tastes, sorry Ms. Davis!

1 cup of shredded, cooked roast beef (this is what leftovers are for ladies and gents)

1/2 onion, sliced

2 shallots, sliced

3 or 4 beets, peeled and chopped

2 red potatoes, chopped

2 Tablespoons butter

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1.  Melt butter in pan.  Add olive oil.

2.  Cook the onions and shallots til golden brown over a medium heat and then add the potatoes and beets.
3.  Sear the beets and potatoes on one side for three minutes, then stir and allow the other side to get crusty.  Turn the heat lower and add the reserved shredded meat, cook, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

4.  Salt and Pepper to taste and Presto!  Red Flannel Hash Nirvana!
Well, almost red.  I had these pretty candy beets sitting in the veg drawer for weeks (oops, I forgot about them) and as tasty as they were, there wasn't enough red in them to turn the hash red, but it tasted insanely good.  I wasn't sure about sauteed beets and wondered if they'd ruin my shredded beef goodness.  Nope, they only added to it!

Try this recipe on beet haters, I bet they'd convert.

02 September 2011

Sookie Stackhouse's Sour Cream Chicken with biscuits


Dead as a Doornail by Charlaine Harris

This is the fifth book of the Southern Vampire series and my favorite, so far.  Like the rest of her books, there's a murder and Sookie is smack dab in the middle of it.

Here is my version of the tasty southern meal Sookie Stackhouse brings over to Calvin Norris' house after a bunch of stuff happens that you'll just have to read the book to find out about.

Sour Cream Chicken with Biscuits


My kiddo loves mushrooms.  He likes them with eggs, he likes them on a shish kebab and on burgers.  He is a bona fide mushroom fanatic.

Which is why I'm dumbfounded by his dislike for this dish.  IT HAS MUSHROOMS!

Oh well, can't please everyone.

My husband and I really liked this.  The creamy tart sauce was offset by the flavorful firm mushrooms, add in herb-y seared chicken breasts and wowza, you got yourself one heck of a tasty weeknight dinner and nice leftovers for breakfast too.

I made so many biscuits that we had them for breakfast the next two mornings.

First gather up your ingredients;
sour cream, white wine, thyme, red onion, garlic, shallots, parsley, mushrooms, paprika, pepper, salt, olive oil and oregano
chicken breasts
Pour olive oil in the pan and give it a swirl over a medium heat.


 Sprinkle the chicken with salt, pepper, paprika, oregano and thyme and brown it on both sides.

Chop the veggies.  Try not to chop in your knuckles (youch, I can't believe I did that).


Melt a couple of pats of butter, scrape up the tasty bits left by the chicken.

Add in the chopped veggies, cook them until everything is a bit wilted.


Add the wine, let it cook down a minute then stir in the sour cream.  Heat through over low heat.

Now we can make biscuits.
Now roll 'em and pat 'em and mark 'em with pink heart shaped cookie cutter for family and me!


Cut out the biscuits on a floured, dry surface.

Plop them onto a parchment covered baking sheet about an inch apart.  They look kinda anemic, right?


Look how edible they look after a few minutes in the oven.  There's a big empty spot in this picture, someone ate two of the biscuits from the middle of the pan.  I found the crumbs, scattered across the table.  They were drippy with butter and strawberry jam.  What a mystery, I really have no idea how that happened.  Bigfoot, the cookie monster?  Sadly, we'll probably never know what happened.
Sour cream chicken with biscuits

3 large chicken breasts

2 tblspns. olive oil

1/4 tsp. each of the following, black pepper, thyme, oregano and paprika

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup white wine

1 1/2 cup sour cream

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

7 mushrooms, sliced

3 cloves garlic, chopped

handful of fresh parsley

2 Tblspns.  butter

1.  Preheat oven to 350.  Spinkle dry herbs, salt and pepper on chicken.

2.  Heat olive oil in pan, add chicken and brown on each side for a few minutes (four minutes should do) over medium heat.

3.  Remove chicken to oven safe dish and bake for 25 minutes.

4.  Melt butter in pan, add vegetables and saute until the everything is wilted, about seven minutes.

5.  Add wine, allow to cook down for three minutes, then stir in sour cream.  Heat through until the sauce is just starting to bubble. 

6.  Remove chicken from the oven and spoon mushroom cream sauce over the chicken.  Sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Buttermilk Biscuits
adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, Homemade Bread Cook Book (1978)


1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

1/4 cup whole wheat flour

1 Tblspn. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/3 cup butter

3/4 cup + 1 Tblspn. buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450.

1. Stir thoroughly the dry ingredients.  Using a fork, knives or a pastry cutter, add in the butter, working it into the dry ingredients until it is pebble size.

2. Make a well in the center and add the buttermilk all at once.  Stir just till the dough clumps together. 

3.  Turn out onto a floured surface and knead the dough gently, 10 to 12 folds.  Roll out and cut out biscuits that are no thicker than 1 inch thick.  Set them an inch apart on a baking sheet.

4.  Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.