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Ready for Summer

A few weeks ago, I put a new salmon recipe on the menu. The salmon was tasty (probably a 3.75 on the Andy scale), but, for me, the dressing was the real winner. I love having something new for my salads, especially when it’s an easy as “cook, blend, stir, serve.”

The recipe called for fresh blueberries, but since I put several pounds of blueberries in the freezer last summer, I saw no reason to buy out-of-season, trucked-for-miles blueberries in the store. (Obviously, I did buy the out-of-season blackberries a few weeks later. They were on sale, and it’s a LONG time till berry season here, OK?) Per Annie’s instructions, I did remove a few tablespoons of blueberry sauce (to glaze the salmon) before I added the vinegar, but unless I’m making the fish again, I don’t think I’ll bother with that step. And since I’m still not the biggest fan of goat cheese, I opted for feta on my salad.

The result was a fresh, slightly sweet twist on a standard side salad, which will definitely come in handy when our lettuce is ready in a few weeks. (We planted seeds two weeks ago, and now we have the cutest little lettuce plants popping up in the garden!) Come on summer! We’re ready for you!

Blueberry Salad Dressing

Blueberry Vinaigrette

4 ounces of blueberries, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw if using frozen berries)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons of honey
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
kosher salt and fresh pepper

In a small saucepan, combine the blueberries, oil and honey. Cook over medium heat, stirring every so often, until the berries are soft and juicy.

Remove the pan from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the mixture until the berries are smooth. Add the vinegar and whisk until the mixture is smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Allow the dressing to cool before putting it on a salad.

Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. (Mine kept for a few weeks without any issues.)

From Annie’s Eats

Click here for a printable version

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2015 in Marinades, Dressings & Sauces

 

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Too Good to Bake… Almost…

So, back in March, I bought a bottle of Irish cream. You know, so I could make a Bailey’s cheesecake chocolate Guiness cake (similar to this cake, only with cream cheese frosting and a Bailey’s cheesecake center).  I made the cake (And it was good. Very good.), but it didn’t come anywhere close to using up the bottle. So I made brownies. And when I still had Irish cream left in the bottle, I did what any rational person would do. I made cookies. :D

Of course, once I got started, I discovered that the recipe said to chill the dough for at least two hours. Who has time for that? Not me. (At least, not on a work night. After all, I didn’t get the butter in the mixing bowl until after 7pm.) Really though, how important could that step be?

Umm… fairly important when you have a sticky dough, I discovered. Still, two hours is a long time… especially when you want cookies. So I improvised. 20 minutes in the freezer is just as good as 2 hours in the fridge, right?

Close enough. Especially when you discover that frozen Irish cream cookie dough is even better than baked cookies. (Seriously amazing. I mean… chocolate, Irish cream and white chocolate chips. What’s not to love?) We did bake some, and they disappeared in no time. And since the bottle of Irish cream still isn’t empty, I just might make some more cookies. Or maybe I’ll just make the dough… and then put it in some ice cream… :D

 

BaileysChocolateCookies

 

Irish Cream Chocolate Cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) of butter, softened
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups AP flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
1/2 cup Irish cream
1 cup white chocolate chips

Whisk the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt and espresso powder together in a medium-sized bowl.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and vanilla until well combined. Gradually add the Irish cream to the butter-sugar-egg-vanilla mixture, scrapping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. When the Irish cream is all mixed in to the batter, add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Chill the dough for two hours in the refrigerator. (I used my cookie scoop to portion out the dough into one-inch sized balls and placed them on a parchment-paper lined cookie sheet. I then chilled the cookie sheet with the dough for about 20 minutes in the freezer. This seemed to work relatively well, especially with my reduced timetable.) 

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and when you’re ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake cookies for 8-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow cookies to cool on wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

From Gimme Some Oven, who adapted it from How Sweet Eats 

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on May 20, 2015 in Cookies, Dessert

 

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Apple Butter In My Muffins

A couple of years ago, I started using the crockpot to make apple butter. It was an easy solution for the hundreds of apples we brought home from the orchard, and it makes the house smell incredible. Plus, it cooks while I sleep, and then I store the apple butter in the freezer. That’s a win-win in my world.

My apple butter usually winds up on biscuits or in baked brie, but when Andy requested muffins for a work potluck, I decided to see if anyone had ever put apple butter in the muffins before they baked, rather than on the muffins afterwards.

A few seconds later, Google came back with more than four million results. (Further proof that there’s nothing new left under the sun.) After skimming the first few items (does anyone really get past the first page of search results?), I narrowed it down to two choices. And from there, I simply went with the one that had the streusel topping. Although, I would have preferred a recipe that had the apple butter mixed into the batter, instead of spooned into the center. Maybe I’ll experiment with that someday.

Like any good muffin recipe, these came together quickly and easily. After all, if I’m going to spend hours in the kitchen, I’m going to make something fancier than muffins. I decided to skip the glaze (mostly because I was feeling lazy), and while I’m sure it would be fantastic, you can’t miss what you don’t know. The muffin itself isn’t overly sweet, but the apple butter and the streusel make up for it. And then I don’t feel like I’m completing negating my evening bike ride by eating one. (Please don’t tell me if that’s not true, OK? Ignorance is bliss.) ;)

AppleButterMuffins

 

Apple Butter Muffins
Makes about 16 standard-sized muffins

For the muffins: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 egg
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup apple butter (I didn’t actually measure this out. I just scooped spoonfuls from the jar.) 

For the streusel topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup walnuts
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 425. Line a muffin pan with liners and set aside.

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together in a small bowl. Whisk to combine.

In a large bowl, beat the egg, milk and vegetable oil together until combined. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and gently mix until the ingredients are just combined. (Don’t overmix!) 

To make the topping, use your now-empty dry-ingredients bowl and stir the flour, cinnamon, brown sugar walnuts together. Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the mixture is well-blended.

Place a heaping teaspoon of the muffin batter in the bottom of the prepared muffin cups, and then place a heaping teaspoon of apple butter on top of the muffin batter. Sprinkle a hearty pinch of streusel on top of the apple butter, and then top the streusel with another heaping teaspoon of batter. When all of the muffin cups are filled and the batter is gone, top the muffins with the remaining streusel.

Bake at 425 degrees for 5 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees. Bake for another 15 minutes, or until muffins are golden brown and test done with a toothpick. Remove the muffins from the oven and allow them to cool on a wire rack before serving.

From Tastes of Lizzy T’s

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Posted by on May 6, 2015 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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What We’re Eating 5/4 – 5/8

I have to admit, I’ve fallen off of the meal-planning wagon lately. I’ll come up with a couple ideas for the week but not have any real inspiration for the other days, and I’ve been terrible at writing things down. I blame the weather, actually. It’s warm enough where I want to grill things and eat fresh-off-the-vine veggies, but, let’s face it: Living in Wisconsin means that I won’t get fresh, local produce for at least another month.

Sigh. Patience has never been my strongest character trait. :)

In the meantime, I’m doing my best to eat our way through the freezer so I’ll have space for the garden goodies. And I finally took the time to sit down and make a menu for the week.

Monday 5/4 – BBQ chicken pizza and green beans
Tuesday 5/5 – Blueberry-glazed grilled salmon, carrots (from the freezer) and roasted potatoes
Wednesday 5/6 – Green pork tacos (I’m still a little fuzzy on this one. I have a jar of salsa verde and a pork roast in the freezer, so I’m hoping for a crockpot dinner. We’ll see what Google turns up.) :)
Thursday 5/7 – Strawberry balsamic chicken, biscuits (already made and in the freezer!) and a TBD vegetable
Friday 5/8 – BURGERS on the grill, sweet corn (from the freezer), applesauce and asparagus (also from the freezer)

So there you have it. A menu for the week, with 4 out of 5 meals coming from the freezer and going on the grill! Woohoo!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Real Bread

Get this: I finally made real bread. I mean, I’ve baked bread before (both quick breads and sandwich breads), but they were nothing like this. I’m talking about bread with a perfect chewy crust and an interior that’s both studded with bacon AND filled with those fun little holes you find in fancy bakery bread. This stuff may have been the highlight of my weekend last week. (And that’s saying something, considering that I was going to tell you about the chocolate-Irish cream cookies that were in our cookie jar…) 

I’ve been tempted by the idea of a no-knead bread for a while now (ever since I started following King Arthur Flour on Facebook), and when the link to this recipe popped up in my feed, I knew that there was no going back. Never mind that I’d have to make a trip to the store to buy bread flour. This was happening. I did a little reading (again, thanks to KAF) about no-knead bread and decided that this was what weekends were made for.

I mixed up the flour, salt, water and yeast on Saturday afternoon, and since I didn’t feel like baking bread at 3 in the morning (reason #5,872 why I don’t work at a bakery), I let it sit until late Sunday afternoon. It was incredibly easy to put together too – mix, cover, rest and bake. The original recipe called for 8 ounces of bacon, and while I’m sure that would have been amazing, I had to work with what was in my fridge.

I was surprised by how little the bread appeared to rise overnight in the refrigerator, which made me a little concerned when I went to bake it Sunday. Thankfully, after 90 minutes of “resting,” and 45 minutes in a screaming hot oven, I was rewarded with the prettiest loaf of bread to come out of my oven. Seriously. It was round and crusty and perfect. We cheated on the cooling time and cut into it after it had been out of the oven for 30 minutes, rather than an entire hour.

Mmm. At the risk of sounding redundant, it was SO good. I’m sure it’d be a great foundation for a grilled cheese, or the perfect partner to a bowl of soup, but it didn’t last long enough for that around here. Maybe next time. Because there WILL be a next time. :)

No-Knead Bacon Bread

No-Knead Bacon Bread 

3 cups bread flour, plus extra for the mat
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup and 6 tablespoons warm water
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil, for the mat

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, yeast, salt and water. Stir until the mixture is combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours. (I let mine rest for about 26 hours.)  

When you’re ready to bake the bread, remove it from the refrigerator and sprinkle the bacon and chives on the dough. Add a few generous grinds of black pepper, and then stir until the mix-ins are incorporated.

Next, spread a clean cotton kitchen towel on the counter and place a pastry mat or sheet of parchment paper on top of the towel. Lightly brush the mat with a thin layer of olive oil, and then spread a generous layer of flour (I used about a scant 1/3 cup.) on top of the oiled surface. Scrape the dough from the bowl and shape into a round loaf on the prepared surface. Generously dust the top of the loaf with another coating of flour. Lightly oil another piece of parchment paper and place it, oiled side down, on top of the bread dough. Cover the parchment paper with another cotton kitchen towel. Let the dough rest for 90 minutes.

During the last 30 minutes of resting, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. While the oven is preheating, place an oven-safe Dutch oven (love my Lodge!) in the oven to heat as well. When the 90 minutes is up, remove the Dutch oven from the oven and take the lid off of the pot. Remove the parchment paper and towel from the top of the loaf and carefully flip the dough into the preheated Dutch oven. Place the lid on the Dutch oven and return it to the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid from the Dutch oven and bake for another 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Remove the pan from the oven. After a few minutes, use a pair of tongs to pick up the bread and place it on a wire rack to cool. Allow the bread to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

From My Name is Yeh

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 29, 2015 in Breads, Muffins & Rolls

 

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Putting My Spin On Things

Like dips, pasta salads aren’t something I make very often. Since only 50% of our household enjoys it, I usually opt for other pasta dishes. I don’t even make it for potlucks because, “what if EVERYONE makes pasta salad and that’s the ONLY thing at the party?!” (In Andy’s defense, this did happen once… seven years ago. He still hasn’t let me forget it.)

But when I started looking for a different way to prepare asparagus (because variety is the spice of my life), I stumbled on the idea of an asparagus salad. And then I realized that if I bulked it up with some pasta, I could get away with only making one dish for dinner. Plus, if I served it warm and called it “pasta with asparagus and feta,” Andy probably wouldn’t associate it with the chilled, mayo-slicked salads that give him flashbacks to that fateful day in 2008. It’s all in how you spin things. ;)

I made a couple changes to the original recipe. I added pasta (obviously). I roasted the asparagus since our grill is on the fritz, and I upped the lemon, adding the zest and juice from an entire lemon. I used my “good” Italian olive oil from my brother-in-law to finish off the dish, since its flavor would come through. We enjoyed it warm the first night, and I liked the leftovers at room temperature as well.

LemonAsparagusFetaPasta

 

Lemon Asparagus Pasta Salad with Feta 

1 lb. of asparagus spears
8 ounces uncooked short pasta
zest and juice of one lemon
olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup feta cheese
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and lightly oil a baking sheet with olive oil. Wash the asparagus and trim off the tough, woody ends. Cut the asparagus spears into 3″ long pieces. Place the asparagus pieces in a large bowl and drizzle them with about a tablespoon of olive oil. Place the minced garlic in the bowl and toss to combine.

Spread the asparagus in an even layer on the baking sheet and roast until golden brown in spots, about 12 minutes. Hang on to the bowl – you’ll use it to mix everything together at the end.

While the asparagus is cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and place it in the bowl you tossed the asparagus in earlier. Zest the lemon and squeeze the juice over the cooked pasta. When the asparagus is done, remove it from the oven and add the asparagus to the pasta. Scrape any garlicky oil from the pan into the bowl with the pasta.

Mix the feta cheese in with the pasta. If the mixture seems too dry, add another tablespoon or so of olive oil to the  bowl. Toss to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm.

Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on April 8, 2015 in Main Dishes, Pasta, Side Dishes

 

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One Thing Leads To Another

You know the kids books “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” or “If You Give a Moose a Muffin“? Where one thing just leads to another, and before you know it, something simple has morphed into a giant project? I feel like that happens to me sometimes. An idea will pop into my head, and it won’t go away until I do something about it. And the longer it sits and stews in my mind, the more involved it gets.

I’ve been thinking about a Guinness/Bailey’s cake/cheesecake combo for several months now, but the timing hasn’t been right to make one. (The time is coming, though. I can’t wait.) Anyway, with chocolate and Irish cream thoughts floating through my head, it was only a matter of time before they came together in my ice cream maker. Especially after a baby shower cake left me with an overabundance of egg yolks.

I went back and forth about the chocolate base. Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? What would go better with Irish cream? What about spiking the brownies? (The first few recipes Google turned up started with a mix. And we all know how I feel about boxed mixes.) Should I add a fudge swirl, or would that be too much? (As if there could ever be too much chocolate.) Decisions, decisions.

I decided on milk chocolate ice cream, thinking that the Irish cream in the brownies would stand out more against the milk chocolate than the dark chocolate, and since I had five egg yolks in the fridge, I upped the egg yolks to five, rather than four. I used the same fudge swirl that I used in my moose tracks ice cream, and I found a reasonable (and easy) sounding recipe for the brownies.

I began to doubt my milk chocolate decision when I tasted the ice cream base. It seemed overpoweringly sweet, and I was concerned that we were going to have some sub-par ice cream on our hands. And then I was afraid that the brownies were going to be too greasy. But the show has to go on, right? (After all, I’d already offered to bring ice cream to a friend’s house that evening.) So I churned the ice cream as planned and mixed in the brownie chunks, then swirled the fudge through the ice cream and popped it in the freezer to firm up.

Wow. I don’t know if it’s the contrast between the milk chocolate and the fudge swirl, or the hint of Irish cream in the brownies, or what, but we are definitely talking about the sum being greater than its parts. The ice cream is rich, for sure, but that’s never a bad thing. I keep trying to convert Andy from team vanilla bean to team chocolate, and thanks to this ice cream, I think I’m closer than ever. ;)

ChocolateBrownieIceCream

Fudge-Swirled Milk Chocolate Ice Cream with Irish Cream Brownie Bites

For the ice cream base: 
8 ounces of good quality milk chocolate, finely chopped (A shout-out to my brother-in-law, Dan, who gave us some fantastic milk chocolate for Christmas and made this possible.) 
5 egg yolks
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 cups half-and-half
pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar

For the fudge ripple:
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the Bailey’s Brownies*: 
1 12-ounce bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon Irish cream liqueur, divided
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder

First, bake the brownies. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8″ square baking pan with aluminum foil. Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium bowl.

Place the chocolate chips and butter in a large, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave the chocolate chips and butter in 30-second intervals, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate and butter are melted. Set the chocolate mixture aside and combine the brown sugar, eggs and Irish cream in a small bowl. Pour the sugar-egg mixture into the chocolate mixture and stir until smooth.

Whisk the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture until just combined and spread the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until the top is cracked and a toothpick comes out almost clean, about 45 minutes. (The brownies will be very thick. I’m guessing you could bake them in a 9″ x 13″ pan and cut the baking time in half.) Remove the brownies from the oven. Brush the top of the brownies with the remaining tablespoon of Irish cream. Let the brownies cool on a wire rack before cutting them into bite-sized pieces.

While the brownies are cooling, make the fudge swirl. In a small saucepan, whisk together all of the ingredients except for the vanilla. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture starts to bubble. Let it boil for one minute, then remove it from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool until needed, being sure that the fudge has cooled at least to room temperature before using.

To make the ice cream base, place the chocolate and the cream in a heatproof bowl. Set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is melted and smooth. When the chocolate has melted, pour the mixture into a large glass bowl and set a fine mesh sieve over the top of the bowl. (I use my Pyrex two-quart measuring cup for this so I can easily pour the ice cream base into the ice cream maker.) 

Mix the sugar, half-and-half and salt together in a medium saucepan. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves. Whisk the egg yolks together in a small bowl. Gradually add the warm half-and-half to the egg yolks, whisking constantly, until most of the warm milk has been combined with the eggs. Add the entire mixture back to the saucepan and cook, stirring constantly, until it thickens and coats the back of a metal spoon. Pour the custard through the sieve and into the chocolate mixture. Cover the bowl and refrigerate until the ice cream base is thoroughly chilled.

Churn the ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions. When the ice cream is finished churning, stir in about 1 1/2 cups of brownie bits. Drizzle a tablespoon (or so) of the fudge across the bottom of a freezer-safe container. Spread about one-third of the ice cream on top of the fudge. Drizzle some more fudge on top of the ice cream, then top with more ice cream. Repeat until the ice cream is all in the freezer container, and then top with some additional fudge. Freeze until firm.

*Note: This brownie recipe makes an entire 8″ pan of very thick brownies. I used about 1/4 of the pan for the ice cream, which left us with plenty of brownies to enjoy alongside our ice cream – something that no one complained about. 

Ice cream from The Perfect Scoop, as seen on Annie’s Eats; Brownies from The Recipe Girl Cookbook, as seen on Eats Well With Others; Fudge swirl from the Perfect Scoop, originally seen on Annie’s Eats

Click here for a printable version.

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2015 in Dessert, Ice Cream

 

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