Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Handcrafted Easter

Happy Easter!  This year I wanted to try making most of the candies in the Easter basket I put together for my kids.  I thought it would be a fun challenge so I set to work making a big box of marshmallows, chocolate covered pretzels, chocolate covered raisins, chocolate covered caramels, and regular caramels.  The kids were more than delighted with their haul and it was gratifying to make everything from scratch and watch them enjoy it.  Even though I was tempted to decorate sugar cookies, make nut clusters, and peanut brittle...I kept it simple and I was pretty happy with that decision.  
Caramels
adapted from Barefoot Contessa How Easy is That?


1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Line a small 8 or 10 inch pan with parchment paper that has been sprayed with cooking spray.
In a medium pot combine 1/4 cup water, sugar, and corn syrup.  Bring mixture to a boil, and continue to boil until the mixture is a warm golden brown color.  Do not stir the mixture, watch carefully.
At the same time the mixture is boiling, bring the cream, butter, and salt to a simmer in another small pot.  Remove from heat.
When the sugar mixture is ready, turn the heat off and very slowly and carefully drizzle the milk mixture into it.  It will boil and rise up rapidly so be prepared.  Once you have all of the milk incorporated turn the heat back on, add the vanilla, and cook until mixture reaches 248°F 9 on a candy thermometer, stirring occasionally.  
Carefully remove from heat and pour into the prepared pan.  Cool in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.  
Once it has cooled, remove the pan and set the caramel onto a cutting board.  Use a large knife to cut it in half and then carefully roll and fold the caramel until you have a log that is about one inch in diameter.  Repeat with remaining caramel and then slice it in individual pieces and wrap them in squares of parchment paper.  They will be softer than store bought caramels so they should be stored in the fridge and then brought to room temperature before serving.

*These can be dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in nuts for an even more luxurious treat.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Chicken Galantine with Sausage Stuffing


A few weeks ago I watched Jacques Pepin debone an entire chicken in just a few minutes and I was totally intrigued. I finally had the chance this weekend to try my hand at deboning a chicken and I'm happy to say it went really well.  I only had to watch this video twice to get the hang of it.  I was so concerned about the deboning process that once I was finally ready to stuff it I realized I had no clue what I was going to stuff it with!  I look around and found some left over bread, two italian sausages, an onion, and some seasonings.  I gave it all a spin in the food processor and hoped for the best.  I'm happy to say it was actually pretty terrific.
The second time I made this I was more prepared and I stuffed it with this country apple and vegetable stuffing which was a bit chunkier and a much more appealing presentation.   It was really great and definitely made dinner feel like a special occasion.    The chicken turned out so moist and tender and the stuffing cooked up perfectly.  I served it with fresh broccoli, gravy, and a wild rice medley which went perfectly with this dish.

Chicken Galantine with Sausage Stuffing ( for Country Apple and Vegetable Stuffing click here)

1 chicken, deboned
2 sausage links
1 medium onion, diced
2-3 slices dry bread, cubed
1 egg
poultry seasoning
salt and pepper
butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Lay out your deboned chicken.  In a bowl mix all remaining ingredients except butter and spread onto chicken, making sure to press some of the mixture into the leg cavities.  Roll chicken together, incasing the stuffing, and tie up according to the video linked here.  Baste with melted butter and place in oven.  Insert a digital thermometer and roast for around 1 hour or until center reads 165 degrees, basting with butter every 20 minutes.
*Feel free to experiment with the stuffing, as this is more about the method than following a specific recipe.

* I served both of these with gravy made from the pan juices and stock I made from the bones.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Make Ahead Breakfast Burritos

I'm always on the search for make ahead dishes that are easy to reheat in the morning.  On weekdays my husband leaves the house before the sun is up and heads to the gym for an early workout or swim.  I often find myself scrambling to prepare something the night before, so I decided to make a huge batch of breakfast burritos and store them in the freezer so that he can grab one on those days when I don't have time to prepare anything fresh.  These burritos are packed with a hearty mix of roasted potatoes, sausage, peppers, onion, and cheese.  I made enough filling to make 20 burritos which are the perfect size to grab and eat on the go.  They should last in the freezer for months, but I'm willing to bet they won't last more than a few weeks since the kids kept an eye on me while I was assembling them!
Breakfast Burritos

4 russet potatoes
1 small onion, diced
1 red and/or green pepper, diced
1/2-1 pounds breakfast sausage
12 eggs
1 cup milk
1-2 cups grated cheese (I used colby/jack)
20 taco shells
olive oil
salt and pepper
steak seasoning/season all

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat oven to 400°F.  Wash potatoes and cut into 1 inch cubes.  Put potatoes on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and your favorite mix of spices.  (I used a steak seasoning mix and a little rosemary.)  Toss to coat and bake for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender, remove and cool.
Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium and add onion and peppers.  Cook 3-4 minutes and then add breakfast sausage.  Cook until vegetables are tender and sausage is cooked through.  Remove and let cool in a large bowl.
Using same pan add a pat of butter.  Whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a large bowl and then add to sauté pan.  Cook until eggs are set and no liquid remains.  Add to bowl with sausage mixture, let cool.  Add cooled potatoes to mixture.
Once mixture has cooled completely, add grated cheese.  Heat 2-3 taco shells in the microwave for 20 seconds to make them pliable and add a large scoop of filling.  Roll burrito up and wrap it in foil or plastic wrap.  (We unwrap ours before heating so I use foil.)  Place wrapped burritos in large ziplock bags and store in freezer.
*I defrost one in the fridge the night before and then my husband heats them for about 45 seconds in the morning.  You could heat directly from the microwave if you desire.  Adjust microwave time accordingly.)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Roast Pork with Rosemary

This roast pork recipe is such a breeze...simply season and stick it in a hot oven and you're done.  We usually buy a large pork loin and portion it into meal-sized chunks and put the extras in the freezer.  This method also works really well with a bone-in rack of pork if you can find one.

Roast Pork
2-3 lb pork loin
olive oil
rosemary
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Season pork with rosemary salt and pepper.  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and place on a sheet pan.  Insert a digital meat thermometer if you have one or have a regular meat thermometer handy for later.  Roast meat for about 40-50 minutes or until internal temperature reads 155 degrees and then remove from oven and tent with aluminum foil for 10 minutes.  If you have a regular meat thermometer start checking the internal temp around the 35 minute mark depending on the size of your roast.  Transfer to a cutting board and slice.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Swiss Steak

Swiss Steak is not a pretty meal, but it was a favorite of mine as a child and I fondly remember it cooking away in the oven all afternoon and eating the braised meat with my family.  I particularly liked spooning the extra gravy over my mashed potatoes (or just eating the gravy by the spoonful!).
This is the perfect opportunity to have your little ones help you in the kitchen because every kid I know enjoys pounding things.  I just gave her the mallet and let her go.  I know I loved helping out with this meal as a kid and I'm hopeful that Grace will remember it fondly as well.
Swiss Steak

2 pounds round steak
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper
1 cup water
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cups chicken or beef broth
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce or soy sauce
oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Place 1/2 cup flour in a large ziplock bag and add a teaspoon of salt and pepper.   Toss to coat.  One at a time, pound steaks with a mallet or edge of a plate until 1/4 inch thick.  Repeat with remaining steaks and then lightly dust with another coating of the flour mixture.   Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a heavy pot or dutch oven and brown steaks.  You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your pan as you don't want to crowd the meat.  Once all the meat is browned on both sides add the onions, 1 cup of water and worcestershire (or soy) sauce.  Bring up to a boil and then cover and transfer to oven.  Cook for 11/2 hours.  In a small bowl whisk broth, 1/4 cup flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.  Stir into meat mixture and return to oven for an additional 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and check seasonings, adjust, and serve.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

The title should really be Double Chocolate Chocolate Chip Banana Bread That Tastes Like Cake, but I thought that was a bit much.  This banana bread had rich Ghirardelli Cocoa as well as chocolate chips in it to make a deliciously flavorful and moist banana bread that is tender and cakey.  This was a great alternative to our regular banana bread recipe and it can double as a dessert.  It also freezes extremely well so you can slice it into single servings and pace yourself!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
adapted from a recipe my sister in law received from a friend

3 cups flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup Ghirardelli cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. fresh nutmeg
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp. vanilla
3 large ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Prepare a bundt pan.  (2 loaf pans or muffin tins work as well)  In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment whip eggs, oil, sugar, and vanilla until light yellow.  In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together and then add to wet ingredients.  Mix until just incorporated.  Add mashed banana and chocolate chips.  Mix for 30 seconds.  Remove paddle attachment and fold batter with a spatula a few times and then transfer to the pan of your choice.
Bundt pan: start checking at the 45 minute mark by inserting a toothpick, cake is ready when it comes out clean.   Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Guacamole

Years ago a friend of mine shared a trick for making guacamole, simply place everything in a ziplock bag and bang it with a rolling pin or hand crush it.  Give this method a try, it is so easy and mess-free.
Guacamole

2 avocados
2 tablespoons diced red onion
2 cloves garlic
1 plum tomato (optional)
cilantro
juice of 1 lime
salt

Cut two avocados in half, remove pits, and scoop flesh into the ziplock bag with a spoon.  Peel the garlic and then crush into a paste using the side of a large knife.  Add garlic, diced red onion, a tablespoon or so of minced cilantro, the juice of a lime, tomato (if using), and salt to taste.  Press the air out of the bag and seal.  Crush with your hands or bang with a rolling pin until smooth.    Press all of the guacamole into one corner, cut the tip off the bag and pipe into a serving dish.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Carnitas

Carnitas is basically a Mexican version of pulled pork, slowly braised for hours until the meat falls of the bone and then it is shredded and cooked again over a high heat to crisp it up.  It is terrific served in a taco shell or atop rice and beans.  I think it would also do well in a sandwich or piled high on a plate of nachos.

Carnitas
1 4-6 lb pork butt or "picnic ham"
1 large onion, sliced
3 cups chicken stock (water or beer works as well)
oregano
salt and pepper
olive oil
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan.  Season pork with salt and pepper and brown the pork for 4-5 minutes per side.  Add onion, a couple teaspoons of oregano, and chicken stock.  Bring up to a boil and cover.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 3-4 hours or until meat is falling off the bone.  Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes or so.  Using a fork and tongs, remove fat and any bones, and then pull meat apart.  Serve with rice and beans or you may choose to return the pot to the stovetop and heat over medium high heat frying until meat is golden and crisp on the edges.  Try not to move meat around too much, let it brown.  Serve in tortilla shells with desired toppings.

Monday, March 04, 2013

Parmesan Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Here is an easy preparation for brussel sprouts that go well with roast meats, turkey, pork, or chicken.

2 pounds brussel sprouts
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Halve the brussel sprouts and place them on the lined baking sheet.  Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of olive oil, the thyme leaves, cheese, salt and pepper.  Toss to coat.  Place in hot oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once or twice during cooking.  Serve with more parmesan cheese, if desired.

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