Thursday, March 31, 2011

Creamy Rice Pudding

I had some organic milk in the fridge which was getting close to date. Because I was also considering the Indian meal I was preparing to cook, I decided to make rice pudding. Rice pudding is a dessert I have always loved. It is not too sweet and because it has nutritional benefits on its side, one I have made often over the years. 

Rice pudding is a very flexible dish. It can be cooked on the stovetop or baked. It can be made with any kind of rice, any kind of milk, and many different fruits and nuts can be added for additional texture, flavor, and health. Also a number of spices work well--cardamom, saffron, cinnamon.  I have baked it with brown rice, soy milk, and dried apricots. The possibilities really are endless.

Here, I have cooked it on the stovetop using basmati rice, organic whole milk, golden raisins, and finished with a sprinkling of freshly grated nutmeg. 

Creamy Rice Pudding
3/4 cup uncooked basmati rice
1 1/2 cups water
2 cups milk, divided
1/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

In a medium saucepan, combine rice and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook rice for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the pan undisturbed for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and fluff the rice with a fork.  Add milk and sugar, along with a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until thick and creamy--15 to 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the egg and combine with the additional 1/2 cup milk and the raisins. Stir into the rice mixture and continue to cook for 2 minutes more, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.

Pour into a serving bowl. Delicious served warm or very cold.

Shared with Sweets for a Saturday #11 at the blog, Sweet as Sugar Cookies

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw

Here is a delicious coleslaw my family really goes for. Especially my Mother. When we get together, she always asks me to make it.  I thinly slice the cabbage using my sharp chef's knife and that's what Mama loves. She also loves watching me do it.  I have given her the recipe but she always says she can't cut the cabbage like I do. When I visit her kitchen, I always take a cutting board and my knife.

I have assured Mama the slaw will taste equally delicious if she uses her food processor, but no, she wants it my way. So of course, I always happily make it for her. It is part of the sweet and poignant circle of life. Oh the hours I have spent, sitting in the kitchen, watching Mama cook.

This salad has a tangy vinegar and oil dressing and a wonderful homemade flavor. It is great for picnics because there is no mayonnaise.  Make the salad a couple hours ahead of serving time, so it can marinate for at least 2 hours.

Sweet and Tangy Coleslaw
1 medium head cabbage, shredded
2 medium carrots, grated
1 tsp. celery seed
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 tsp. salt, to taste
1 tsp. ground mustard
1 medium onion, quartered

In a large bowl, toss cabbage, carrots and celery seed until well mixed. Place the vegetable oil, sugar, vinegar, salt, ground mustard, and onion into a blender. Process until the mixture is creamy and emulsified. Pour over the cabbage and toss until well coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. Serve with a slotted spoon.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Cream Cheese & Toasted Pecan Banana Bread

I wrote about this Banana Bread once before, but that was over 2 years ago. Since I just made another batch, I decided it was time to update my previous post.  This really is the best banana bread ever. I got the recipe from my Mother and she got it from Southern Living Magazine.

Toasting the pecans brings out so much of their nutty flavor. The cream cheese creates a luscious taste and substantial texture which is almost like a pound cake.  The recipe makes 2 loaves so there is plenty to enjoy and to share.

And a word about bananas. It is commonly believed that banana bread must be made with overly ripe bananas. When faced with a blackened banana that is all soft and gooey inside, that's a common thing to do with it. And it is a fact that those overly ripe bananas have developed more sugar and provide a stronger banana flavor to the bread.  But I don't like that strong taste they acquire and I think they make the bread a grayish and unappealing color.  I prefer the mild flavor of a freshly ripened banana.  I mention this just to say, you don't have to wait for your bananas to get super ripened to make a delicious and beautiful banana bread. 

Cream Cheese & Toasted Pecan Banana Bread
(Southern Living Magazine)
3/4 cup butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 cups mashed bananas - 1 1/4 pounds unpeeled
1 cup chopped pecans, toasted
1/2 tsp. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2  8x4 inch loaf pans.

Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Gradually add sugar, beating until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until blended after each addition.

Combine flour and next 3 ingredients; gradually add to butter mixture, beating at low speed just until blended.  Stir in bananas, pecans, and vanilla.  Spoon batter into the prepared pans.

Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean and sides pull away from pan. Cool bread in pans on wire racks 10 minutes. Remove from pans, and cool 30 minutes on wire racks before slicing with a serrated knife.

If desired, make a simple glaze with confectioners sugar and milk to drizzle over the loaves.

Shared with Sweets for a Saturday #10 at the blog, Sweet as Sugar Cookies

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Reuben Sandwich

One of the fringe benefits of cooking a corned beef is leftovers made into Reuben Sandwiches. This just has to be one of the most glorious sandwiches of all. The flavors of the corned beef, sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, and rye bread are a sublime combination.

I have ordered this sandwich in a variety of pubs and restaurants and have made them myself. The ingredients are pretty consistent except for condiments. Many Reubens feature thousand island dressing, others, mustard. And some have both. I've been served the sandwich made with mustard on the bread and thousand island dressing on the side. 

We don't care for thousand island dressing so I use a grainy deli style mustard. You will use your preference.

Reuben Sandwich
2 slices rye bread
2 tsp. butter
3 - 4 oz. sliced corned beef
1/4 cup drained sauerkraut
2 oz. sliced Swiss cheese
Mustard or thousand island dressing, or both, to taste

Heat skillet or grill pan. For each sandwich, butter one slice of bread and place buttered side down on preheated pan. Top with sliced corned beef, then drained sauerkraut, and finally with slices of Swiss cheese.  Spread grainy mustard on another slice of bread. Place on top of the cheese, then butter the outside of the slice.

Grill until browned, then flip the sandwich. Continue cooking until the meat and sauerkraut are heated through, the cheese is melted, and the bread is browned.

Serve with potato chips and a dill pickle.

Corned Beef and Cabbage

Thursday evening, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, I cooked a simple corned beef and cabbage dinner, which couldn't be easier. I am not Irish, but my husband is, and this is far and above his favorite meal of the year. He looks forward to it so much.

You could, of course, corn your own beef brisket, but I  buy the packaged Murphy & David's Corned Beef with the little seasoning pack, always on sale for this holiday.

Simply follow the listed directions, which amounts to, open the package, put the beef in a pan, sprinkle on the contents of the spice packet, add water, and simmer until the beef is tender, according to the chart given. Once the beef is tender, add  potatoes, which have been peeled and cut into chunks, to the simmering broth. Cut the cabbage into wedges and arrange over the beef and potatoes.  Continue simmering until the potatoes and cabbage are desired tenderness.

Remove beef from pan and place onto a serving platter. Slice the beef and arrange the cabbage and potatoes all around. Drizzle some of the sauce over everything, and serve.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sixties Fruit Cocktail Cake

This very old fashioned dessert is not going to win any beauty contests, but it is extremely good. It is more like a cobbler than a cake and is very rich and sweet. It will remind you of something your grandmother would have made.

I thought it would make the perfect ending for my Salisbury Steak dinner and it did. I baked it in my iron skillet because I love the rustic look and the delicious crust formed while baking in such a pan. But any baking pan will work.

Sixties Fruit Cocktail Cake
(compliments The Splendid Table)
1 cup flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 egg, beaten
15 1/2 oz. can fruit cocktail, undrained
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1 cup toasted pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a baking pan.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. Stir in the undrained fruit cocktail, beaten egg, and vanille until well blended. Pour into prepared pan.

Mix together the brown sugar, butter, and nuts then sprinkle over the cake batter.

Bake until the cake starts to pull away from the sides sof the pan and a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Serve from the pan, warm, with ice cream.

Linked with Sweets for a Saturday #9 at the blog, Sweet as Sugar Cookies

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Salisbury Steak

I already had a dinner plan in mind. We love our vegetables and the planned dinner was going to be all vegetable and grain based.  Then the weather happened. It was cold, gray, dreary, and pouring rain. Suddenly the menu didn't seem appropriate or inviting. I seemed to need something heartier and more warming.

Spring is like that for me. It is not my favorite season--gasp, I know.  I love seeing and hearing the return of the songbirds, the greening of the earth, and the blossoms springing forth, but here in the mountains, it can be deceptively cold..  And I can't decide what to cook and it seems impossible to plan ahead. I never know if I'll want a nice salad or a hearty stew. 

I came across this recipe for Salisbury Steak, a blast from the past, and thought I'd try it. This recipe uses a can of soup which I usually avoid in my cooking. However, having said that, Campbell's is no stranger in my kitchen. This recipe turned out to be much more delicious than I imagined . Pritchard Parker was greeted with a wonderful aroma when he arrived home, after a hard day at the office, and driving through a downpour.  He walked in, sniffed, and smiled. That made me feel happy.

Salisbury Steak
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
1 egg
1 can French OnionSoup
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. flour
1/4 cup ketchup
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. mustard powder
1/4 cup water

Mix together the ground beef, bread crumbs, egg, and 1/3 cup of the onion soup.  Form into patties. In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown both sides of the patties.  Pour off excess fat.

Blend together the flour and remaining soup until smooth. Mix in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, and water.  Pour over the patties in the skillet.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes over low heat. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Candy Roaster Squash, Ginger & White Bean Soup

Quite a few years ago, I worked as a cook in a Natural Foods Cafe. One of my jobs was to make the soup of the day.  Regular customers loved and clamored for the delicious Butternut Squash, White Bean & Ginger soup, a recipe from The Horn of the Moon Vegetarian Restaurant in Vermont.

I didn't make it very often because it was hard for me to get it done in the allotted time. I would go to work at 7 AM and lunch started being served at 11:30 AM.  While 4 1/2 hours may sound like ample time to make a pot of soup, may I point out that I made a huge (HUGE!) pot of soup and stirred it with a wooden paddle that looked big enough to use as a boat oar.  I also made 8 to 10 quiches each day and washed and prepped all the vegetables in the cold table for the sandwiches and salads. 

That job is where I really developed my knife skills and learned to efficiently chop cases full of vegetables every day.

While the original recipe calls for butternut squash, I used some candy roaster squash puree I had frozen last fall. Use your favorite winter squash--they all work just fine and taste delicious. I also used  large white limas because I had them on hand and love them, but navy beans or cannelini beans are also delicious.

Winter Squash, Ginger & White Bean Soup
1 cup dry white beans
2 lbs. winter squash
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup sliced celery
1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
2 tsp. minced fresh garlic
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Cook the white beans in salted water until tender.

Cook and puree the squash.

In a soup pot, heat the oil, then saute the onions, celery, ginger, and garlic, stirring occasionally. When tender and beginning to brown, add the squash puree. Add the beans to the pot using a slotted spoon. Add some of the bean cooking liquid, vegetable stock, or water to obtain the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir in the fresh parsley.

Simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes and serve.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Toasted Walnut and Raisinette Cookie Bars

As a Christmas gift, my brother gave me subscriptions to a few food magazines. What a great gift for someone like me and a gift I will enjoy all year.  One of the magazines is Food and Wine, which I had not read before. Great choice on Brother's part! The March issue has several recipes I thought sounded great and are on my current menu plan.

These cookie bars are (sort of) one of them. I loved the idea of  making chocolate chip cookies as bar cookies. So much easier to make.  I did deviate from the recipe quite a bit, but that's what we do, right? Use a recipe as a map, but take side roads to the final destination? 

Toasted Walnut and Raisinette Cookie Bars
(adapted from Food and Wine Magazine)
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup toasted and chopped walnuts
1 cup Raisinettes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line bottom of a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with parchment.

Whisk the dry ingredients together and set aside.

Beat together the butter, canola oil, and both sugars until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add the dry ingredients just until combined. Stir in the toasted walnuts and Raisinettes until evenly distributed.

Press into the prepared baking pan. Bake for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Let cook completely, then remove from the pan and cut into bars.

Linked with Sweets for a Saturday #8 at the blog, Sweet as Sugar Cookies

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Crock Pot Jambalaya

Today is Fat Tuesday, the climax of Mardi Gras, which a season of carnival, feasting, and merrymaking prior to lent, which begins tomorrow. 

I have visited the City of New Orleans a number of times and it is a city that is very near and dear to my heart. I went to Mardi Gras only once and I have to say that was enough. I am so glad I had the experience--it was so much fun, and quite fascinating. I did see boobs a few times and once in a crowd I was groped in the nether region, but otherwise everyone seemed to be behaving quite well. Considering that it was one big party!  One of the things I heard often was that in order to properly enjoy Mardi Gras, you should eat twice your weight in food everyday and wash it down with lots of Dixie beer.  Revelers from all walks of life happily greeted one another, with a "Happy Mardi Gras"!

I loved all the Mardi Gras parades, which occur for several weeks, all over town. The parades are hosted by Krewes, which are groups whose main purpose of existence is organizing and participating in parades and balls during carnival.  Most, if not all the floats in the parades are made by Blaine Kern Studios,  and are  breathtaking.  The Krewe members ride the floats and toss beaded necklaces and dubloons to parade goers who raise their hands and shout, "Throw me something mister".  It really is fun and exciting. 

Some of the parades I saw were the Krewe of Endymion, the Krewe of Thoth, The Krewe of Bacchus (Charlton Heston was the King of Bacchus the year I attended, this year it is Andy Garcia), the Krewe of Proteus, the Krewe of Orpheus, the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club, and the Krewe of Rex.

And there was the food. New Orleans certainly has a cuisine of its own, and one to be proud of. Jambalaya is a versatile Creole dish which combines cooked rice with a variety of ingredients, including tomatoes, onion, green peppers, and almost any kind of meat, poultry, and shellfish. The dish is quite spicy!

Crock Pot Jambalaya
(inspired by Steph of Plain Chicken)
1 large onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 - 4 plump garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
1 quart canned tomatoes with their juice (I used home canned)
1 pound cooked shrimp

Add onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic to the crock pot. Add all the spices and herbs. Add the chicken broth and stir well. Cover the mixture with sliced sausage, then the tomatoes.  Cover and cook on low for 7 to 8 hours. Add the shrimp during the last 30 minutes of cook time.  Serve with rice and pass the Tabasco sauce.

Happy Mardi Gras

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Butter Dip Biscuits

Good, old-fashion, Southern buttermilk biscuits have never been my strong suit in the kitchen. I grew up eating them. My Grandmother made them almost every day. I have watched them being made many, many times. But I just don't have the knack for it.

When I saw this recipe on Steph's blog, Plain Chicken, I thought even I could master these easy biscuits. I made them last night for the second time. They are so very easy to do and they are delicious, with a very tender and fluffy texture with a slightly crunchy, buttery bottom crust. 

I had one split, lightly toasted, and topped with some of my homemade Ranier cherry preserves, for breakfast this morning. It was quite lovely with my cup of tea. 

Butter Dip Biscuits
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 - 1 cup buttermilk

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add butter to an 8-inch square baking dish and place in the oven for butter to melt, while the oven is heating.

Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in 2/3 cup of buttermilk. Continue adding more buttermilk, little by little until a loose dough forms.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and press the biscuit dough over the melted butter, using floured fingers.  Cut the biscuits into 9 squares, then bake for 12 - 15 minutes, until golden.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tres Leches Cake

I was sitting at my desk with my morning cup of tea, thinking about food.  I was mainly thinking of two things, the leftover roasted chicken in the refrigerator and the fact that my husband was out of sweets.  I decided to make chicken enchiladas and when I did the Tres Leches Cake came to mind.

This cake circuited food blogs and also food magazines a while back. I had it on my list of things I wanted to try. As I searched for the recipe, I discovered several which listed amounts of the three milks to mix together, then went on to instruct discarding 1 cup of the mixture. Um, no. I am not going to purchase ingredients, mix together ingredients, then proceed to discard some of it before it even gets used?! The only time I dispose of food, and I try very hard to not let it happen, is if something spoils before we can eat it.  

I might also point out more than tres milks in the cake.  Three milks are poured over the cake, which is an amazing sponge. But there is also milk in the cake and it is topped with whipped cream. So, one might actually call this Cinco Leches Cake. 

I had fun making this cake. I got to use my great springform pan, which I think is very cool. I got to separate eggs, which for some reason I love to do.  And I got to beat the egg whites until they were puffy and voluminous, then fold them into the batter. I am very intrigued by this process and always like doing it.

Later, while Pritchard Parker was eating a slice, I told him how much fun I had making the cake. He replied, "Well I saw you poking holes in it and it looked like you were enjoying it:". 

Tres Leches Cake
1 cup sugar, divided
5 eggs, separated
1/3 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (5 oz.) can evaporated milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
additional heavy cream and sugar for whipping
Marachino cherries

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Butter and flour the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan.

Beat egg yolks and  3/4 cup sugar until pale yellow and doubled in volume. Mix in the milk, vanilla, flour, and baking powder until well blended.

Beat egg whites until soft peaks form and gradually mix in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Beat until firm. Fold egg whites into yolk mixture and pour into prepared pan. 

Bake for 45 - 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool for 10 minutes.  Loosen sides of cake with a knife and then remove the side of the pan. Cool completely. Place the cake on a serving plate with an edge. Use a large serving fork to pierce the surface of the cake all over. Mix together the sweetened condensed milk, evaporated milk, and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Pour slowly over the cake. 

Serve with freshly whipped and lightly sweetened cream and garnish with marachino cherries. 

Linked with: Sweets for a Saturday #7 at the blog, Sweeet as Sugar Cookies