The Power of Feta (and Bacon)

This was one of those meals that I wasn’t too excited about at first. I’m usually not a big egg eater – I prefer to eat my eggs in ice cream, cake and cookies. I made it for two reasons: Andy loves breakfast for dinner, especially eggs, and I really enjoy feta cheese. Plus, it did come from my new favorite cookbook. I guess that’s three reasons.

The first time I made it, it took a LOT longer than I had anticipated. (Operator error here. It helps if you read the ENTIRE recipe before jumping in. Especially when you start cooking at 8 pm. Details.) Maybe it was the fact that we were eating at 9pm, maybe it was the feta talking. Either way, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it. Even so, I figured that eggs wouldn’t reheat the greatest and sent most of the leftovers to work with Andy and took something else from the fridge. When I finally had some of the leftovers, I was (again) surprised by how much I liked them.

Lesson learned. You can’t go wrong with potatoes, feta and bacon.

I’ve also made this with ham, on a day when I was out of bacon. It’s good with ham, but let’s face it… everything is better with bacon. (Yes, everything. Even cheesecake.)

And now I have a new favorite breakfast for dinner dish. Because, let’s face it. Now that I know it needs nearly 40 minutes in the oven, I’m probably not getting up early enough to make this on a Saturday morning. 😀

Frittata

Potato, Scallion and Bacon Frittata with Feta

1 3/4 lbs. potatoes
1/4 lb. bacon, preferably thick-cut
olive oil, for the pan
3-4 scallions
3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
6 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush a tablespoon or two of olive oil on to a large baking sheet.

Peel the potatoes and slice them in half length-wise, then slice each half into semi-circles that are between 1/4″ and 1/2″ thick. (My slices are never even. Some are thinner than 1/4″; some are thicker. It all works out though.) Spread the potato slices on the prepared baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes, flipping them once at the halfway point. Remove from oven and set aside to cool slightly. Keep the oven on.

Line the baking sheet with foil, and place the bacon strips on the sheet. Bake for 10-20 minutes, or until bacon is crispy. Remove from oven and allow to cool. (Alternatively, you can cook the bacon on the stovetop, but I love the oven method because there’s less mess.) Drain one tablespoon of bacon drippings into a cast-iron (or other oven-safe) skillet and combine with a little (probably less than a tablespoon) olive oil. Heat the pan over medium heat and swirl the oil around the warm pan, being sure to coat the sides. Remove from heat once the oil coats the pan.

Meanwhile, thinly slice the scallions and crumble the bacon. Scatter the potatoes in the bottom of the skillet, then sprinkle the bacon and scallions on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the feta cheese all over the top of the potato/bacon/scallion mixture.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs together with the milk, a pinch of salt and some black pepper. Pour the egg mixture into the skillet. Cover with foil and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove the foil and bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until the eggs are done and the top is nicely browned. Slice in wedges and serve immediately.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version

Great Granola!

My previous “go-to” granola recipe was one from Epicurious called Everyday Granola. And while it was good, it wasn’t great. In fact, “everyday” may not be the best way to describe it. I’d make it every now and then, but it definitely wasn’t a regular in my kitchen.

Enter my new favorite cookbook. I made a batch of Deb’s “Big Cluster Maple Granola” shortly after receiving the book for my birthday last month, but I only got to try a little bit of it before it was gone. (I shipped some to my in-laws as a thank-you for the book, and Andy made quick work of the remainder.) I decided it to give it another shot last week and figured I’d share some of it with a friend who just had a baby. One batch should be plenty, right?

Well… let’s just say I have to go buy more oatmeal now. 🙂

Seriously. Lacey’s lucky that Andy quit double-fisting it from the pan long enough for me to pack up a bag for her. And it must have been good, since she sent me a message less than a day later to ask for the recipe. Looks like we have a new “everyday” granola here.

As you can see from my pictures, I’m still struggling with getting the “big clusters” that Deb made look SO easy. Maybe I need more egg white, maybe I stir it too much. Clusters or not, we like this.

Big Cluster Maple Walnut Granola

3 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup shredded coconut (Deb says to use unsweetened; I just use the bag of sweetened stuff that’s in my pantry.) 
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt (I’m pretty sure this is what takes it over the top. You get bites of sweet with the salt mixed in. YUM.) 
1/2 cup real maple syrup (No Mrs. Butterworth here!) 
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg white
1 1/2 cups dried fruit (Deb says cherries; I prefer cranberries) 

Preheat oven to 300. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat.

In a large bowl, stir the oats, coconut, walnuts, wheat germ, salt and cinnamon together. Stir in the olive oil and maple syrup, making sure everything is well coated.

In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until it is frothy, then pour the egg white over your granola mixture. Stir until evenly coated. Spread the mixture out on the prepared pan.

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until mixture is dry and golden brown. Stir the granola halfway through baking, being careful to not break up the “clusters” too much. Remove from oven and let cool completely before adding the fruit to the granola. Store in an airtight container.

From the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Click here for a printable version.

March Muffins

Is it just me, or does March feel like a long month? We’re well past the excitement of the holidays, and at least in this part of the world, everyone feels “done” with the cold, gray weather. There isn’t a long weekend on the horizon until May, and, worst of all, NOTHING is in season any more. We’re done with pumpkins and squash, and January’s citrus explosion is over. It seems like an eternity until strawberry season starts, and my fruit stash in the freezer is getting dangerously low!

All is not lost, however. I still have some rhubarb squirreled away, so I whipped up a batch of muffins last week to share with some girlfriends on a road trip to Milwaukee. (I thought about making blueberry muffins, but then I discovered I’m almost out of frozen blueberries as well. COME ON SPRING!) These are ideal for making the night before a trip because they come together in just a few minutes. And while they’re best warm, right out of the oven, they’re also pretty tasty the next morning. 

The recipe was originally published in the now-defunct “Cooking for 2” magazine, and while it’s nice to have a muffin recipe that doesn’t feed an army, I end up doubling (or even tripling) it most days, especially when I plan on sharing with someone besides Andy. (My doubled amounts are reflected below.) I also discovered that you can swap the sour cream for Greek yogurt with no ill effects. I add oatmeal to the topping and use whole wheat pastry flour for half of the flour, in an attempt to feel a little better about eating two or three for breakfast. 🙂

rhubarbmuffins

Rhubarb Cream Muffins

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
2 cups fresh or frozen rhubarb*
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

For topping:
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons oatmeal
2 tablespoons cold unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Line muffin tins with paper liners and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and brown sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat well.

Meanwhile, in a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add half of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, and then add the sour cream. Add the remaining dry ingredients and stir until almost mixed. Gently fold in the rhubarb and walnuts (this should mix in the rest of the dry ingredients).

To make the topping, whisk the sugar, cinnamon and oatmeal together in a bowl. (Save a dish here and reuse the bowl you mixed the dry ingredients in!) Cut in the butter with a pastry cutter until the butter is evenly distributed and  is about the size of small pebbles.

Fill the prepared muffin cups about two-thirds of the way full. (I use my large cookie scoop to evenly portion out the batter.) Top with the prepared topping.

Bake until muffins are golden brown and test “done” with a toothpick, about 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes in the pans. Remove the muffins from the pans and allow to cool.

*To use frozen rhubarb, measure while frozen, then allow rhubarb to thaw completely in a colander. Drain, but don’t press out the extra liquid. 

Adapted from Cooking for 2, Spring 2007

Click here for a printable version.

The Perfect Pear

I may have said this before, but pears aren’t my favorite fruit. I don’t mind them in a fruit cocktail, and I enjoy the occasional pear chunk in a salad, but I don’t go out of my way to work them into my diet. Especially when there are other, much tastier (in my opinion) fruits to enjoy. (Like strawberries. And blueberries. And peaches.) 

Andy, however, couldn’t disagree more. There isn’t a fruit out there that he doesn’t love (pears included), so when his parents offered to bring us some fruit from their trees this past fall, he immediately said yes. We ate a lot of applesauce and apple crisp, and Andy put a considerable dent in the pears, but there’s only so much one person can do. 🙂

Just as the pears were becoming a fruit fly paradise, this recipe popped into my Google Reader, and I thought it had a lot of good things going for it. I mean, veggies taste better roasted, so it stands to reason that the pears would only improve after some time in the oven. Plus, cream AND butter AND chocolate? I’m in. 🙂

I prepped these on a Thursday evening and popped the entire cookie sheet in the freezer, covered in saran wrap, which meant I could quickly bake them the next night after work. And then, since I’m always using my friends as guinea pigs, I took them to dinner on Friday. Let’s just say that I didn’t bring any home. 🙂

PearScone

Roasted Pear & Chocolate Scones

3 pears (about a pound), on the firm side*
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar, plus an extra 1 1/2 tablespoons for sprinkling
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus a pinch for egg wash
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small chunks
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 large eggs, divided

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Peel and core pears, then cut into one-inch chunks. Place pears on prepared baking sheet in a single layer. Roast until chunks are slightly brown and dried out. Remove from oven and set aside to cool to room temperature. If you’re planning on baking the scones immediately**, leave the oven on and put a clean sheet of parchment paper (I used my Silpat.) on your cookie sheet.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the flour, 1/4 cup of sugar, baking powder and salt. Place the paddle attachment on the mixer, and add the roasted pears, butter, 1 egg and cream. Mix on low until just combined, being careful not to overmix. Add the chocolate chips and mix for just a few seconds more.

Turn the dough out on a well-floured counter and pat it into a circle. (Deb says six inches in diameter; mine was probably closer to eight.) Cut the circle into wedges (again, Deb said six; I did eight) and place the wedges on your baking sheet.

In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt and a little water. Brush the egg wash over the scones and sprinkle with reserved sugar. Bake until scones are golden, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Serve as soon as possible.

*As I stated earlier, my pears were on the verge of melting away, so they definitely weren’t “firmish,” as Deb’s recipe calls for. I tried to compensate for this by roasting them longer, and it worked OK, but if you have pears that aren’t on their last legs, they’ll work much better.

**You can freeze the completed scones before baking, and then just pull them out whenever you need a scone-fix. (Hello, convenience food!) I brushed mine with the egg wash before freezing, but I see that the original recipe calls for brushing with egg wash after freezing but before baking. Whoops. It’s your call. Whatever you decide, just add an extra minute or two to your baking time if you bake them directly from the freezer.

From Smitten Kitchen

Click HERE for a printable version!

Doughnuts, Round Two

Remember my quest for the doughnut pan? And how Andy decided that the pumpkin doughnuts, while tasty, were just “cake”? Well, I refused to let a little detail like that get me down. After all, I don’t give up that easily. (Just ask Andy.) Since pumpkin isn’t his favorite flavor, I figured I had to give things another try. Especially if chocolate’s involved! Lucky for me, my friends are always eager to help me out, and when I mentioned that I needed to give the doughnuts another go-around to get Andy on board, they knew just what to do.

GIRLS NIGHT!

Five of us spent a wonderful evening baking, laughing and catching up. We had so much fun, and I can’t wait to do it again! (In other words, attention Jackie: Get yourself back here ASAP!) 🙂

Chocolate + doughnuts + some of my favorite people = awesome evening.

The doughnuts were good. (Not quite as good as the company, but well… that’s pretty much impossible.) They were easy to put together (a plus when you’re doing just as much talking as you are baking!), and all of the husbands loved them.

There was just one problem. Andy looked up the definition of “doughnut,” and according to him (and Mr. Webster) a doughnut is a “ring-shaped cake fried in fat.” These then, by definition, were not doughnuts, and, therefore, could probably be baked in something other a doughnut pan.

Chocolatey goodness waiting to take a dip in the glaze…

Hmm. I have one more doughnut recipe left unmade… perhaps another baking evening is in order. Who’s with  me? 🙂

Christmas Doughnuts 018
Sprinkles make everything happier. 🙂

Chocolate Doughnuts

For the doughnuts:
1/4 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark.)
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla (We didn’t actually measure the vanilla… we just dumped. You can never have too much vanilla, right?)
4 tablespoons canola oil
Rainbow sprinkles, if desired (does anyone NOT desire sprinkles? Be honest here.) 

For the glaze:
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray doughnut pan with cooking spray and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Stir in the egg, milk and vanilla and stir for one minute. Stir in the oil and whisk until combined.

Fill the wells in the doughnut pan about two-thirds of the way full with the batter. Bake until doughnuts spring back when lightly touched, about 7 to 9 minutes. Turn doughnuts out on wire rack and allow to cool before dipping in the glaze. Decorate glazed doughnuts with sprinkles.

To make the glaze: Place the chocolate chips and butter in an oven-proof bowl, and place the bowl in a warm (170 degree) oven. Stir the mixture every few minutes until it is smooth and melted. Stir in the corn syrup and vanilla. Use immediately.

From Milk & Honey, who adapted the recipe from Stephanie Cooks

Click HERE for a printable version!

Giving credit where it’s due: All of these photos are courtesy of my wonderful friend Lacey. They’re probably the nicest pictures this blog’s going to get. 🙂

Pumpkin Persuasion

Andy and I have an ongoing debate about pots and pans. Specifically, the number of pots and pans that should live in my kitchen cabinets. Since he puts the clean dishes away, he battles the stacks of skillets, saucepans and stock pots. (Shameless brag here… how awesome is he? I HATE emptying the drainer and putting clean dishes away. Gotta love him!) So, the last thing I need, in his eyes, is another pan perched precariously on the shelf. Especially a pan that can be used for only one thing.

But…

there are DOUGHNUTS to be made. (Yes, I realize that I could make yeasted doughnuts and skip the whole “buy a doughnut pan” issue. But that requires much more time – these cake doughnuts baked up in under an hour, start to finish – and deep frying, which I’m not a fan of.) Enter the doughnut pan debate.

Me: Oooh, look! A doughnut recipe! If only I had a doughnut pan…
Andy: You don’t NEED a doughnut pan.
Me: But you like doughnuts! Don’t you want homemade doughnuts?
Andy: Not really. And not if it means getting another pan to fit in the drawer under the stove.
Me: *sigh* Another dream bites the dust…

Thankfully, I don’t give up easily. And I have connections. My friend Emily was willing to let me borrow her doughnut pan, and I figured that if I could whip up the world’s tastiest doughnuts, I’d convince Andy to let me add a doughnut pan of my own to my collection. (Me? Scheming? Never…) 

I saw a pumpkin doughnut recipe on Milk & Honey, and it seemed too good (and too easy!) to pass up. They were moist and full of fall flavor. They came together in a snap. I made 12 full-sized doughnuts and nearly 24 doughnut “holes,” using my mini muffin pan. They were everything I’d hoped they would be… except for the fact that they did nothing to change Andy’s mind. According to him, they were just cake baked into the shape of a doughnut. Hmm. Guess that means I need to try again!

PumpkinDoughnut

Pumpkin Doughnuts

1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
15 ounces pumpkin puree
1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
cinnamon-sugar mixture (I simply mixed some sugar and cinnamon together until it looked like a good ratio.) 

Preheat oven to 350. Coat a doughnut pan (or a mini muffin pan, if you’re making doughnut holes) with non-stick spray.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the oil, eggs, sugar, pumpkin, pumpkin pie spice, salt and baking powder. Beat on medium speed until smooth. Add the flour and mix until just combined, being careful not to overmix the batter.

Fill each well in the doughnut pan about two-thirds of the way full. (I would err on the side of “less is more” with these guys. I found that overfilling the wells caused them to look less doughnut-like.) Bake doughnuts until they test done with a toothpick (somewhere in the 15-20 minute range). Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes in the pan on a wire rack.

Place the cinnamon-sugar mixture in a large Ziploc bag. Before the doughnuts are completely cool, flip them out of the pan and place them, a few at a time, in the bag with the cinnamon-sugar. Seal the bag and shake to coat the doughnuts. Remove from the bag and allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Repeat the process until all doughnuts are coated.

Serve immediately. (These will get slightly soggy after a day or so, but I found that keeping some extra cinnamon-sugar on hand to toss on a day-old doughnut helped them immensely.) Store any leftover doughnuts in an airtight container.

From King Arthur Flour, via Milk & Honey

Muffins to the Rescue!

Sometimes, I feel like I’m caught in a mad race against time with my produce. The lettuce is wilting in the fridge!  The peaches are seconds away from dissolving into a syrupy mess on the counter! The cilantro has turned black! NOW. IS. THE. TIME. TO. PANIC. AHHHH!!! (Over-dramatic? Who, me? Never.) 

These muffins were made in one of those produce-induced panics. The apples were moments away from turning into applesauce in the fruit bowl, so it was either bake or send them to the trash can. I do my best to avoid pitching food, so “to bake” it was. This happened a few days before Thanksgiving, and since Thanksgiving means a road trip for us, I decided that muffins would be a good solution to my apple problems. After all, muffins are portable and individually packaged – perfect road food, right?

Karen suggested her apple muffins, and while I know they would have been good (and MUCH healthier than these!), I didn’t have several of the ingredients. So, to AllRecipes.com I went, and came up with this recipe. It came together quickly (a plus, as I had about 15 other things on my to-do list that night) and featured pantry staples. As I mixed up the batter, I noticed that the recipe didn’t have any spices in it – what kind of “apple pie” is this? I added cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. I also left off the crumb topping – mostly because I felt like the muffins were already sweet enough. Surprisingly enough, we didn’t miss it at all. (Guess that goes to show that you can’t miss what you don’t know!) 

http://images3a.snapfish.com/232323232%7Ffp734%3A4%3Enu%3D326%3B%3E498%3E257%3EWSNRCG%3D386669769%3B32%3Cnu0mrj
They may not be the flashiest muffins, but they sure did hit the spot halfway through our road trip!

Apple Pie Muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
pinch of cloves
1 egg
1 cup buttermilk (I subbed milk with lemon juice this time.) 
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
2 cups diced apples

Preheat oven to 375. Line muffin tins with paper liners. (I ended up with 20 muffins, but I think the original recipe had me overfill the tins. You might be able to get 24 muffins out of this.)

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients. Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine the butter and brown sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Stir the egg, buttermilk and vanilla into the sugar mixture.

Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour the wet ingredients and the apple chunks into the well. Gently fold the wet ingredients and the apples into the flour mixture, being careful not to over-mix.

Fill the muffin wells two-thirds of the way full. Bake until muffins test done with a toothpick, about 25 minutes. Let cool in pans 10 minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

Adapted from AllRecipes.com