Friday, August 27, 2010

Red Beans and Rice Rice Baby

I briefly lived in Louisiana so that makes me an expert on all things Cajun. Not. When some people hear the phrase "red beans and rice" they think, "eww, is that really whats for dinner?" Not my family, we are all about the beans and the rice coming together and having a party. Lucky for my parents beans and rice are both cheap, so it is easy to feed a lot of kids for a little money. Seriously, just open a can of black beans, or navy beans, or kidney beans...serve it over rice and we are all happy campers. We actually couldn't wait for Lent so we had more reasons to eat beans and not meat. What is wrong with us?

Sometimes when we make beans we would add andouille, or some kind of sausage to jazz it up a bit. I actually put some andouille in my cart at the store specifically for this dish but just couldn't bring myself to buy it. I seriously sat there for 20 minutes putting it in and out of my was almost as bad as me taking a left turn onto a busy bueno. My "moral" dilemma was that I try to steer clear of things with added nitrates in them...if you don't know what "nitrates" are I won't even try to explain them to google it. All I can say is they are bad for you. So, we try to buy uncured bacon which is nitrate free. Anyway, at the end of the day I walked away from the wonderful nitrate laden andouille and picked up uncured bacon instead...and because of this I will rest easy tonight knowing I made a healthy decision. Go me.

Have I sung praises of "short" grain brown rice yet? I am pretty sure I have, so just to be clear...BUY SHORT GRAIN BROWN is soooooooooooo good. A rice by any other name would taste so bland...darn now I have to quote some Will...this can also pertain to the love between beans and rice and not just Romeo and Juliet...

"Tis but thy name that is my enemy; Thou art thyself, though not a Montague. What's Montague? it is nor hand, nor foot, Nor arm, nor face, nor any other part Belonging to a man. O, be some other name! What's in a name? that which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet; So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd, Retain that dear perfection which he owes Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name, And for that name which is no part of thee Take all myself." - Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare

So basically what matters is what something is, not what it is called. So rice may be called "rice"...but is it good rice?

Red Beans and Rice

1 pound dried red beans
8 slices bacon chopped

1 large onion diced

4 cloves garlic diced fine
1 jalapeno diced fine
1 TBS apple cider vinegar
4 cups chicken stock
6-8 cups water
1 TBS dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

1 1/2 tsp salt

Rinse dried beans and then soak in water 8-12 hours. Drain and rinse. In large stock pot brown bacon until cooked. Add onion and jalapeno and saute over medium/high heat until caramelized and soft, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute. Add vinegar to pan and stir. Add dried beans and liquids. Cook over medium heat 2-3 hours until beans are tender. Stir occasionally. Add spices and seasonings. Serve over rice.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Applesauce Bread

Ahh...back to school, back to school, to prove to my daddy that I ain't no fool. Nothing beats the tax free hustle and bustle of shopping insanity during the days leading up to school. It feels weird no longer being a student. As I watch everyone board the buses, and enter the classrooms I feel as if I am missing out. Have I really learned all that I need to know about life and the world? Is this as big as my brain is going to get? Please Lord, say it ain't so. I was looking at an old college paper I wrote over six years ago...boy did I sound smart back then...and what exactly was I trying to say? Not too sure. It seems as college becomes more and more of a fading memory my brain becomes more and more a fading faculty. I have tried to continue my education on my own, but without deadlines, or professors looming over me I have no motivation to continue. I have however, continued to grow in my knowledge of all things food. Although food is important and vital to all humans, it doesn't seem as lofty and intellectual as I wish it did. I will continue to research, cook, and write with the hopes of stretching my mind a little more every day.

Now where was I... ahh yes, back to school. I love that apples are the traditional gift for teachers. After working at a few schools I think it is funny that most teachers just let the apples rot on their desks and then chucked them. Poor apples, they never saw it coming. There are a few theories as to why apples are associated with teachers:

1) In grammar school students are taught, "A is for Apple" if you give a teacher an apple, you will get an A...and are therefore known as a "teacher's pet"

2) Zen reason: Apples are seen as a symbol of variety, change and growth. It symbolizes change and variety because it comes in different colors such as green yellow and red. Apple trees without love and care cannot grow...just like a child needs love and care to grow.

3) During the 16th - 18th century in various countries parents would pay educators with foods like fruits. Teachers did not make enough money and needed all the help they could get. To help them with their basic needs, parents gave the teachers of their children potatoes and apples. Back in the day apples were considered special and expensive because fruits were difficult to plant, cultivate, and harvest.

4) The Biblical background is that apples came from the "tree of knowledge", so if you eat an apple you instantly get smarter.

fyi...that whole saying, "an apple a day keeps the doctor away" is totally bogus. I eat lots of apples and still go to the doctor...someone should really argue that point in court one day.

Onto the recipe part of this post. Applesauce bread. I usually make this more into the apple season, but it fit in so well with my back to school apple theme I just couldn't wait any longer.

Applesauce bread
(I hate not giving credit where it is due, but I really can't remember where I found this recipe...sorry person who invented this)

In large bowl mix the following with a whisk until smooth and combined:
1 stick of butter melted
1 cup granulated sugar
1 2/3 cup applesauce (I made my own applesauce, which is easy, but the store bought kind works too)
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp vanilla

Whisk into the above:
2 eggs

In small bowl whisk together and then add to the wet ingredients:
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1 cup raisins, currants, or any dried fruit you like

Stir until just combined. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake in 350 degree oven for 45-55 minutes.

Pecan Encrusted Bacon

If you want to take your brunch to the next level I have the secret weapon for you. Say it with me..."Pecan Encrusted Bacon." Doesn't it just sound divine and evil all at the same time? I was in Ohio this past January for a friend's wedding, and while there my friend, Abigail, and I were able to visit a local restaurant. If you are ever in Cleveland, Ohio I highly recommend taking the time to visit Lucky's Cafe. We feasted like royalty and left happy and content. Abigail got a ship wrecked omelet, and I got gingerbread waffles with stewed apples on top. Of course we split both meals so we could get the best of both worlds, and also shared some incredible pecan encrusted bacon. I finally got around to searching for a recipe online for such a creation, and finally found one from Alton Brown. I was pretty sure my family would not be impressed by this bacon...only because they have boring palettes and don't like things that sound too creative. Surprisingly my dad and brother were big fans, but my Mom thought it was too sweet. I loved it, and will definitely be making this again.

Pecan Encrusted Bacon
from Alton Brown
  • 1 pound thick cut bacon
  • 2 1/2 ounces light brown sugar, about 6 tablespoons
  • 1 1/2 ounces pecan halves

Heat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a half sheet pan with aluminum foil. Arrange the bacon in a single layer on a cooling rack, and set it in the prepared sheet pan. Bake until the bacon browns and the fat is rendered and bubbly. About 30 to 35 minutes. (I just used a broiler pan and rack, and it worked just fine)

Meanwhile, combine the brown sugar and pecans in a small food processor. Pulse about 15 times or until the pecans are finely chopped.

Remove the bacon from the oven, sprinkle with the brown sugar mixture, and pat down to adhere. Return to the oven a bake until the bacon is crisp, about 10 minutes.

Cool on the rack for 10 minutes before serving.

Pecan Encrusted Bacon alongside my homemade Oatmeal bread and Agave Peach Jam

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet Potato Corn Bread

Hum yeah...didn't I just do a post about sweet potatoes? What can I say, I am a sucker for all things yum. According to the national guidelines of how to eat food chapter 21, section W, paragraph 89, "All chili must be accompanied by a large hunk a hunk of this thing known as cornbread." So, as it is my sworn civic duty...and yours...I made some cornbread to go with my chili. We were raised on Jiffy Cornbread in the little blue boxes...we loved that cornbread!!! Whenever my dad would make brunch on random weekends he would make 3 boxes of the Jiffy cornbread...and boom...that was it. No complaints from us, fresh cornbread soaked in a gallon of syrup...who could resist such a temptation? It has been a life long mission of mine to make cornbread from scratch that can compete with the moist and sweet bar that Mr. Jiffy man set for all corn breads. Alas, I have searched far and wide and have found no such recipe. Most call for creamed corn, or lots of cheese to mask the lame dryness it actually is. Thank goodness I finally found a worthy competitor...Sweet Potato Corn Bread. The sweet potatoes keep this bread nice and moist. Of, course the next day it turns to ash...but then it can be made into corn bread dressing or grilled breakfast!

Sweet Potato Corn Bread

In large bowl whisk together the following:
2 cups flour
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup sugar

7 tsp baking powder
2 tsp salt

In small bowl whisk together the following and then mix into dry until well combined;
4 eggs
3/4 cup whole milk

1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 cups cooked mashed sweet potatoes*

Pour into greased 13x9 baking pan and bake at 425 degrees for 30-35 minutes.
This makes a lot of cornbread, so if you are cooking for less then 6 people I recommend cutting this recipe in 1/2 and baking it in an 8x8 pan instead.
*I sliced the sweet potatoes in 1/2 and roasted them in the oven until tender, then scooped out the pulp. You can also use canned sweet potatoes if you want to save time.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Maple Pecan Granola

Emma wanted to take a picture of the granola but kinda missed

My older sister and I often discuss food. I would say about 3/4 of our conversations are based upon that wonderful subject. What she grows, what I try to grow, what she cooks, what I bake, or what her husband cooks. She eats mostly only local food, and cooks with local ingredients. I am envious that she has so much access to so many wonderful fresh ingredients year round. I mean you can't even compare a fresh egg to a store bought one, fresh milk to the plastic filled milk...I mean it is basically comparing apples to cats...whole different levels going on there. We were discussing all things granola the other day; different techniques, different ingredients, different everything. We have always been a granola loving family and have stuck to one basic recipe. I had found a recipe a while back without any oil, or butter. Ironically my sister just asked if I had ever made granola without a fat. I had not. So, I found myself not sleeping at night until I tried a non-oil/butter granola recipe.

Any who, in my attempt to eat a healthier breakfast that is actually "real"...and seeing as I never have time to make eggs during the week...this is my "new" lower fat, all natural, all real, no preservative, sweet breakfast. AKA...the breakfast of champions...Wheaties totally stole that one from me. : )

Maple Pecan Granola

1 cup maple syrup
1 cup ground pecans
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 ground flax seed
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
6 cups old fashioned oats

Stir all ingredients together until well combined and bake in 350 degree oven for 15-20 minutes, stirring half way through. Cool and store in sealed container.

Oh, and in other non related news...I invented an Italian Cream Cake Cookie...aren't they pretty?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Sweet Potato Haystacks

Whenever I am presented with the option of paper or plastic, I choose paper. Whenever I am presented with the option of White or sweet potato...I choose sweet. Two of my favorite indulgences are Trader Joe's Sweet Potato chips, or sweet potato fries. This is of course what I eat when I am trying to not eat cookies. I have convinced myself that because it is orange like a carrot it is matter how it is cooked. So please, don't spoil my non nonsensical logic.: )

Usually I slice up a sweet potato into strips, toss it with some olive oil, and sea salt and bake until done. Or, I cube it toss it with olive oil, sea salt, and rosemary and bake until done. I really need to work on some new ways to cook sweet potatoes. Oh look at that...a new way to cook sweet potatoes...perfect timing! So these babies are rufus. Yeah, they are that good. You can make these without a food processor, they will just take a heck of a lot more time to make...but still totally worth it. These are cooked in an oiled frying pan, but after looking around online I saw that they can also be made in the oven on an oiled sheet pan. So, I will try that method as well and report back on how it worked.

Now, some brief random facts on the Sweet Potato:
You may also know Sweet potatoes under their alias names of yam, patata, patae, susse kartoffel, patata dulce, patate douce, patata dolce, batata doce, batatas...say what...oh, and sweet potatoes are technically not yams...yams are softer are more orange then sweet potatoes, but to avoid confusion the USDA mandated that all yams/sweet potatoes be labeled as "sweet potatoes." What, did they think we are all too dumb to handle the truth? I can handle the truth.
October-January is the prime season for Sweet potatoes, but now and days they are readily available year round. Most of the world's sweet potatoes come from China...go figure.

Sweet Potato Haystacks

2 pounds peeled and grated sweet potatoes

1 small onion grated
2 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
olive oil

Grate sweet potato and onion in food processor fitted with grater attachment. Mix in large bowl with remaining ingredients until well combined. Heat oil in large frying pan over medium/high heat. Form small patties in hand and place in hot oiled pan. (please note, they are fragile so don't move them around in the pan until you flip them) Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side until nice brown color is formed. remove from pan and eat. These would be great with brunch instead of hash browns!!! Or they make a perfect accompaniment to any dinner!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Balsamic Brown Butter Tilapia

Fish is great. Cheap fish is even better. We are a fish loving family, heck, we even like those fake orange goldfish cracker snacks. I was working out on our elliptical the other day, while I was watching the Food network...which is kinda counter productive...but let's save that for another day. Anyway, I haven't watched food network in a long time, mostly because of time constraints, but yeah...I admit I was watching Rachel Ray, she made this fish dish and it actually looked good. So, I cut my workout short and headed straight to the grocery store. This was a wicked fast way to cook tilapia, and it was yum. So, if you want a quick and easy meal this week I suggest you hop off the treadmill and head to the store.

Balsamic Brown Butter Tilapia
from Rachel Ray
  • 4 (6 to 8-ounce) tilapia fillets
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Season the fish with salt and pepper. Dust fish with flour and shake off excess.

Heat 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook fish 4 minutes on each side. Remove fish from skillet to a platter and cover loosely with foil to keep warm. Reduce heat to medium and add butter to pan. Brown butter, 2 to 3 minutes, stir in balsamic and simmer 1 to 2 minutes to reduce by half. Pour the brown butter and vinegar over fish.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Hermit bars...don't eat these alone... : )

Do you like my fancy plating?

I love hermits. I have never met one because they are a bit hard to find, you know that whole seclusion thing they got going on. : ) For those of you who don't know what a hermit is here is the wikepedia def: "A hermit is a person who lives, to some degree, in seclusion from society." This is not to be confused with a "Monk"...those guys also live alone but they also make that. : ) I guess I always thought hermit bars were just oatmeal raisin cookies baked in the bar formation...apparently I was once again misinformed. Go figure.

I made these bars on a whim, on a Wednesday, with some walnuts, and WOW...were they WOW! They were chewy, and rich in flavor. Kudos to Real Simple for this winner of a recipe. These bars are pretty sturdy making them a great addition to any lunch box, picnic, breakfast, or heck...any empty hand or mouth.

Hermit Bars

Real Simple

In small bowl sift the following and set aside:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt

In large bowl mix with beaters until fluffy:

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
1 1/4 cup brown sugar

Then add and beat until smooth about 2-3 minutes:
2 eggs (room temp)
1/4 cup molasses

Add the following to the dry ingredients and toss together then add to the wet and mix until just combined:

1 cup raisins
1 cup chopped walnuts

Pour into greased or parchment lined pan 9x13 cake pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes until set. Cool and slice into bars.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Chocolate chunk cookies...not for the faint of heart

Something must be wrong with me...I make cookies all day at work,and then come home and make more cookies. What have I become? I finally realized that I am a bit obsessed with cookies and really need to chillax for a while. So, I have limited myself to only making cookies at home on the weekends. Let's see how long that lasts. : ) I taped this scripture to my mirror to remind me to stay on track : )...

"Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it." - Hebrews 12:11

I am thinking the peaceful fruit in my case will be me being able to button my jeans again...hopefully. : ) In other news, I was grocery shopping with my 18 year old sister today and some lady thought she was my daughter...excuse me while I go eat a carton of ice cream. Don't judge, I said I was going to go easy on the cookies not the ice cream. Anyways, onto the recipe. I made these cookies tonight, and dang were they good. I love Ina Garten. Her recipes are simple, to the point, and always turn out great. When I grow up I want to have a cute house like hers, with the beautiful garden, and an adorable little Jewish husband too! Until then, I will just have to keep making these cookies to make up for all those other things I don't have.

Chocolate Chunk Cookies

adapted from Ina Garten

In medium bowl cream until fluffy:
* 2 sticks of butter at room temperature
* 1 cup light brown sugar, packed
* 1 cup granulated sugar

Add the following and mix 2-3 minutes:
* 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
* 2 eggs at room temperature

Sift together the following and then add to above:
* 2/3 cup good unsweetened cocoa
* 2 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1 cup white chocolate chunks or chips
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chunks or chips

Mix until combined. Scoop onto parchment lined cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees 10-12 minutes. I baked 1/2 plain as is, then toasted some pecans and sprinkled them on top of the remaining was yum.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cornmeal Honey Buttermilk Waffles

I know, I know, 2 posts in 2 days...what is wrong with me? I found myself home basically alone for the weekend with no I baked, cooked, and then baked some more...which now means tomorrow, I will run, bike, and then run some more. DARN THE VICIOUS NEVER ENDING CYCLE OF EAT AND WORK OUT, EAT AND WORK OUT!!!

Buttermilk Honey Cornmeal Waffles
Adapted from Gourmet

1 cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
2 cups well-shaken buttermilk
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 TBS Honey

Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In another large bowl whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil, and honey. Add flour mixture to wet ingredients and whisk just until combined.

Pour onto oiled waffle iron and cook until golden brown. Serve with warm maple syrup.