Monthly Archives: June 2012

Rosemary Bread

I’m a bread fan.  Are you?  You know, the fresh-baked, crusty outside that requires a serrated knife to crack into the soft and pillowy insides.  The type that’s perfectly soft but holds up to a hefty spread of pure unadulterated butter.

When I was selected to create a menu for the Foodbuzz 24×24, I knew I wanted to incorporate rosemary from the herb garden.  To complement my garden inspired menu, I wanted to create a rustic loaf using rosemary with some other herbs.  Making breads like these always leave me wondering I don’t bake basics like bread more often.  Have you baked bread before?  That’s a problem I’m more than happy to correct.

And, did I mention it goes perfectly with butter?

Side note – this bread tastes a lot like the bread you get at Macaroni Grill.  

Rosemary Bread
adapted from Food Network

Ingredients:

  • 2 and 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 and 1/2 cup bread flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing and serving
  • 2 tbsp fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1/2 tsp thyme, minced
  • 1/2 tsp basil, minced
  • 1/4 freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Proof the yeast in a large bowl.  Proofing:   Add the yeast and sugar in a large bowl.  Stir in water and mix.  Let it sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the flour, salt, and olive oil.  Mix until it comes together.  You can use a mixer with a dough hook, but I just used my hands.  Get it to come together, then turn out onto a floured surface and knead for at least 10 minutes.  You want the dough to be smooth and elastic.
  3. Once smooth, place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover, place in your oven with the light on and let it sit for an hour.
  4. Remove from the oven, punch down and knead again.  Let it rise again in the oiled bowl.  This time you don’t have to put back in the oven.  I take this time to preheat the oven to 375.  Once the dough has sat for another hour, bake for 30 minutes.
  5. After 30 minutes, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake for another 10 minutes.
  6. Serve warm.

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Filed under baking, Bread

Local. Sustainable. Organic. A Garden-Inspired Menu

I have been very fortunate to come from and marry into a family interested in having their own vegetable gardens.  Every summer, I am pretty much guaranteed that my family CSA will supply me with organic vegetables once a week.  My in-laws, with acreage, have devoted a quarter of their land to harvesting their own vegetables.

The variety includes squash, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, okra, lettuce, spinach, chard, garlic, onion, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, green beans, pears, cantaloupe, chili peppers, and much more.  Needless to say that my grocery bill is substantially lower during this time of year.

Eating from the garden, in short, tastes better.  Much much better.  Fruits taste sweeter.  Vegetables taste fresher and just generally have more flavor.

As a gesture of gratitude, I cooked a meal to thank those that have given me more than just produce – but really a new way about thinking about cooking and quality of food.  This Foodbuzz 24×24 menu is comprised of local organic, sustainable or organic ingredients.

Menu:
Blueberry Mint Soda
Rosemary Bread
Deviled Eggs
Fried Green Tomatoes
Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
Pan-seared Halibut over Wilted Spinach, Texas Portobello Mushrooms and Tomatoes with a Citrus Shallot Dressing
Squash Gratin
Peaches with Homemade Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Ice Cream

Served on a (fortunately) cooler Texas evening, we enjoyed this meal outside near the vegetable garden.  Served family style, this experience was more than a meal but a celebration of the people who dedicated themselves to feeding themselves and their families better.

When I first started grocery shopping and cooking for myself, thinking about where my food comes from was not even in my thought process.  In my mind, shopping at the big chain stores for cheaper blueberries and shopping at an organic store for duper expensive blueberries would yield the same result, the former just requiring an additional rinse under some cold water.

Well, times have changed and I’ve grown a bit wiser.  In this global world where any food is accessible year-round, I now focus on buying for the season rather than for the sale.  In the end, the product is not the same.

Instead of investing in produce that has traveled thousands of miles, I encourage you to check out your local farmer’s markets, join a CSA, buy seasonally, or grow a garden, no matter how small.  Growing and knowing the food you eat will change how you look at your plate.

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Filed under Appetizers, Bread, Dinner, Uncategorized

Oreo Truffles

After my sweet baby boy has come into my life, it’s rare that I find time to savor anything.  Meals are hurried through so that I can get to something else that I need to do with him.  Binks and I actually take turns eating sometimes so that we can hold our fussy baby.  It’s a circus and I find myself longing for the days when I would sit down and enjoy my food.  The days where I could spend 20, dare I say an hour, on a complete meal.  These days, naps are short.  But, long enough to grab one of these and savor all three bites.

The complete product is definitely more than the sum of its parts.  Completely decadent and oh so easy to make.  I was nervous about whether the use of cream cheese would add a tangy taste.  It did not.  These bite-sized treats are great when you want a chocolate treat without the fuss.

Oreo Truffles
recipe from Allrecipes

Ingredients:

  •  1 (16 oz) package of Oreos
  • 1 (8 oz) package of cream cheese, softened
  • 2 packages (8 squares each) BAKER’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate, melted over a double boiler

Directions:

  1. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Crush 9 Oreo cookies in a food processor until fine crumbs and set aside.
  3. Crush remaining cookies in the food processor and place in a bowl.  Add the cream cheese and mix together until fully incorporated.
  4. Roll mixture into 1-inch balls.
  5. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes.
  6. Dip in melted chocolate and set on cookie sheet.  The truffles will firm up and store in air-tight container in fridge.

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Filed under Desserts

Pimento Cheese

If you would have asked me 10 years ago if I liked pimento cheese, I would have said no. A strong harsh no. What I’ve seen in stores as a mayo-heavy cheese mixture with little flavor, never appealed to me in any sense. Never say never. A year ago, for lunch, at a mediation of all places, the mediator served a variety of sandwiches, including the pimento. I tried it. And, I loved it. Unlike the usual pimento cheese spreads, this had a distinct cheddar and pepper taste and was low on the mayo. After an hour, I realized I had eaten all the pimento cheese sandwiches on the platter. Luckily, my client was too nervous to eat or notice.

I have finally recreated a version that I am quote proud of and is delicious. I do not prefer creamier pimento cheese spreads. I like to have a substantial shred of cheddar cheese. My recipe is a twist on the classic. Adding shallots and pickled jalapeno for a crunch and kick. While you can certainly eat it the day of, I recommend letting it sit for at least two hours for the flavors to blend. I let it sit overnight and Binks agreed that the flavors settled better.

Pimento Cheese

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (best if you grate it yourself)
  • 1 (4 oz) jar of pimento cheese, diced
  • 1 small shallot, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 tbsp pickled jalapeno, diced (optional)
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients together. Refrigerate for at least two hours before serving.

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Filed under Appetizers, Side Dish, Vegetarian

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chocolate chip cookie recipes are abundant and with everyone saying that their recipe is the best in the whole world, sorting through and finding a favorite is quite difficult.  After eating several cookies from several sources, I realize that you don’t necessarily have to have a favorite.  For instance,  I have a recipe that I adore that’s similar to what you find in most chocolate chip cookies, similar to the Bouchon cookie.  However, a friend of mine once made me chocolate chip cookies that tasted like toffee.  After years, I can still remember the crisp cookie, which tasted like candy with a beautiful crunch and chew.  I wasn’t able to get it out of my head.

I promise you that you will eat more than one cookie.  Lucky for us, the recipe makes about 50 cookies.  Lucky for my waist line, you can scale down the recipe easily.  I didn’t.  With a weekend full of people in and out of the house, they went fast.  These are also perfect paired with ice cream.  With a great combination of crisp and chewy textures in this cookie, this cookie has been saved as a favorite in the ultra-thin variety of chocolate chip cookies.

Brown Sugar Chocolate Chip Cookies
recipe from Martha Stewart

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, plus more for baking sheets
  • 3 cups packed light-brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups best-quality chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)
Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter until pale.  Add both sugars until smooth.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract.  Mix until incorporated.
  5. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda.
  6. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the butter mix.
  7. After fully incorporated, stir in the chocolate chips.
  8. Using a cookie scoop, scoop spacing 3 inches apart.  You do not want to crowd them as they spread quite a bit.
  9. Bake for 8-10 minutes.  Check at 8 minutes and then check every minute until you figure out the right time.  These brown easily.

4 Comments

Filed under baking, Cookies, Uncategorized

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It took me a good long while to figure out what red velvet cake is.  Despite the several people who proclaimed it was their favorite and the wide-spread praise this cake gets, I was convinced that it was a chocolate cake with red food coloring.  And, thinking that it’s a chocolate cake tinted red, I never understood why it had to be paired with cream cheese frosting.  As a southern girl, this southern cake was confusing.

Almost like trying to understand, from fans, why the Twilight series received such high praise.  I mean, they are 17 years old.  Right?  Just me?  And it might just be my over-analytical self, but a vampire (dead) would likely shoot blanks, no?  Now, there’s 50 Shades of Grey.  I have no opinion.  What do you think?

Moving on.  When I was pregnant, I made some based on a craving (cravings don’t have to be logical).  I loved it.  Not a chocolate cake at all.  Rather, a cake with distinct flavor all on its own.  Slightly tangy, rich and perfectly sweet.  And, cream cheese frosting is a necessity.  And, really, who doesn’t love cream cheese frosting.  While I loved my first attempt, I wanted something more chocolate.  Luckily, I found this recipe and am satisfied.  As was my red-velvet-loving friend.

The frosting should get its own set of praise.  I love cream cheese frosting!  It took me some practice and research, but I finally put together the right combination of ingredients to get the perfect consistency for piping and frosting.  Perfect in every way.

Red Velvet Cake
adapted from Apple A Day, adapted from Saveur, via The Way The Cookie Crumbles

Ingredients:

  •  2 and 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 and 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tbsp red liquid food coloring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Grease and flour 3 8-inch pans.
  3.  Sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. Beat the eggs, vegetable oil, buttermilk, food coloring, vanilla extract and vinegar in a large bowl.
  5. Slowly combine the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients to combine and fully incorporate.  You do not want to overmix.
  6. Divide your batter among the three pans and bake in the preheated oven for 25-30 minutes until it passes the toothpick test.
  7. Cool in the pans for 5 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack until the cake is completely cool to the touch.
  8. Frost with cream cheese frosting (below).

Cream Cheese Frosting

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz cream cheese, cold
  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 and 1/2 tsp clear vanilla extract (I use the artificial)
  • 2 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Directions:

  1. In your mixer, cream together the cold cream cheese and butter together until smooth.  Add vanilla extract.  Gradually add in the powdered sugar until fully incorporated.

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Angel Hair Pasta with Chile Lemon Oil and Arugula

It’s rare that I make pasta any other way than drenched with a beautiful red sauce. Sometimes, red sauce seems more fitting for the fall and winter seasons. Recently I look towards more simpler and lighter pasta dishes, without having to give up any flavor. And, with this pasta, you get quite a looker too.

Fine strands of pasta covered in parmesan cheese and flakes of panko bread crumbs offer richness, while the chile and lemon infused oil add depth and vibrancy. The addition of fresh arugula adds a peppery bite without adding any weight to the dish. Beautiful, delicious and perfect for a main course or to be served alongside a shrimp scampi, like I did when we had company over.

Angel Hair Pasta with Chile Lemon Oil and Arugula

slightly adapted from Shutterbean via Tyler Florence
Serves approximately 6 people

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
  • 2 cups panko bread crumbs
  • salt and fresh cracked pepper
  • 5 cloves garlic, slivered
  • 1 tsp red chili flakes (I used 3 tsp because I like more heat. Adjust for your taste.)
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 pound angel hair pasta
  • 6 cups arugula
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

  1. In a skillet over medium heat, add two tablespoons of the olive oil. Then, add the breadcrumbs and stir to toast until golden brown. Add salt and pepper to mix in. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  2. Wipe the pan clean and put it back on the stove over medium heat. Add the 1/2 cup olive oil, garlic and chile flakes. Cook for about 3 minutes to make sure the olive oil is infused with the garlic and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the lemon zest and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the oil becomes fragrant. Remove from heat.
  3. In a large pot, cook pasta to al dente (it shouldn’t take more than 3-4 minutes). Drain and place in a large bowl.
  4. To the pasta, add the chili infused oil, lemon juice, arugula, toasted bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.
  5. Gently, using tongs, stir everything together.

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Filed under Main Dish, Pasta, Vegetarian