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One of my favorite hobbies is to cook, must be part of my Italian background because I love to see people eat. Mangia, Mangia, as my grandmother would say. It was never much of a problem with four men in the house – there was always someone happy to eat. Now, there are two of us in the house and the cooking presents a bit more of challenge, you see I am used to cooking…a lot (again, the Italian coming through). It’s difficult to figure out how to just make dinner for two, day after day.
We have had our share of good meals and our share of popcorn or PBJ for dinner when neither of us could seem to decide what we should do about that meal. I think, however, that I am coming around. Over the weekend, we felt like carrot cake, knowing full well that we couldn’t eat a whole carrot cake even if we spaced it out over days (carrot cake day #1 is great, day #2 is good, day #3 really, carrot cake again?) so I figured out that I would make a small carrot cake. I searched around and I found a recipe for a small carrot cake but it required a 6 inch cake pan. I searched around in the hopes that I could find something that I could use but not 6 inch cake pan or anything close to it. So I figured I would work with what I had, ramekins and make little carrot cakes – two of them.
They came out resembling little muffins, I cut off the raised tops to flatten them to look more like cakes, then cut each cake in half so there were two layers. The recipe called for a maple cream cheese frosting which was spread on top of one “layer” and then iced on the whole cake–it was delicious! Two little individual carrot cakes for dinner earlier this week.
The recipe was adapted from Betty Crocker’s website. I omitted raisins and walnuts which could certainly be added as you desire.
- 1/4 all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- Pinch salt
- Pinch ground ginger
- Pinch ground cinnamon
- Pinch ground nutmeg
- 1 egg white
- 2 tbs packed light brown sugar
- 2 tbs canola oil
- 1 1/2 tps milk
- 1/4 tsp vanilla
- 1/3 cup packed grated carrot ( 1 carrot)
Maple-Cream Cheese Frosting
- 2 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 tbs unsalted butter, softened
- 1/3 cup powdered sugar
- 2 tps maple syrup
- Preheat oven to 350°F
- Spray 2 (6-oz) ramekins with cooking spray.
- In small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg; set aside. In medium bowl, beat egg white, brown sugar, oil, milk and vanilla with wire whisk until blended. Stir in flour mixture until combined; stir in carrots.
- Divide batter evenly between ramekins. Set ramekins on baking sheet and place in oven. Bake 17 minutes or until cakes are set and spring back when touched lightly in center. Cool in ramekins 5 minutes; remove from ramekins to cooling rack. Cool completely. Level cake layers with a serrated knife.
- For frosting, in small bowl, beat together cream cheese and butter until blended. Beat in powdered sugar and maple syrup until smooth.
- Fill and frost layers with maple-cream cheese frosting.
Tonight, we were supposed to be going out for dinner. However, the wood stove was too warm and comfortable and the company was good. We were cozy and Mother Nature wasn’t making leaving the nest too desirable even for an anticipated night out. Not having planned on making dinner tonight, this was a throw-together. Sometimes, honestly, I think the “open the pantry and empty the fridge” meals somehow turn out to be the best meals of all.
The ingredients on hand:
- leftover boiled chicken breast
- fresh basil
- broccoli crowns
- red bell pepper
- chili garlic sauce
- olive oil
- potato gnocchi
I sauteed the vegetables together, added the shredded chicken and a very little olive oil (the special one that Tim brought back from Spain) seasoned it with a little kosher salt and a teaspoon of chili-garlic sauce. Added the gnocchi when it was cooked (which didn’t take long at all) and topped it with a couple grinds of shredded asiago cheese. Served it with some warm homemade bread. We enjoyed it by the fire with some great music playing in the background. Very delicious, indeed.
Tim and I went blueberry picking and I may go again today since one of the blueberry pick-your-own places indicated on FB that today is the last day of picking for the season. We came home with two bags full of blueberries and I made a blueberry muffin cake. The original recipe is from Fine Cooking but I tweaked it just a bit to add a streusel topping, the same as on the blueberry muffins that I make. It definitely took the cake, which was delicious without the topping to a different level.
For those of you that asked, here is the recipe:
Blueberry Muffin Cake (adapted from Fine Cooking Magazine recipe)
- 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly; more for the pan
- 9 oz. (2 cups) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 2 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 2 large eggs
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- 3/4 lb. (2 cups) fresh blueberries
- 4 oz. (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 2 t. cinnamon
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Butter or spray the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round springform pan.
Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl. In a small bowl, whisk the butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla. Using a silicone spatula, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients just until incorporated. Fold in the berries. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. Tap the pan on the counter once or twice to break any air bubbles.
Mix together the topping ingredients which should make crumbles. Spread the crumbled streusel topping over the cake batter.
Bake until golden-brown and a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. The original recipe says the cooking time is 45-55 minutes which is what worked without the streusel. With the streusel topping, add an extra 15-20 minutes, check occasionally until a tester comes out clean.
Cool on a wire rack for 10 to 15 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the cake and remove the side of the pan. Transfer the cake to a serving plate and serve warm or at room temperature. Ours didn’t make it to the cooling phase. It was steaming still when we removed it from the pan to eat with a cup of tea the other night for dessert.
Doesn’t this look delicious? Let me tell you that it tasted as good as it looks. Okay, maybe it even tasted better than it looks.
I adapted this recipe from Bon Appetit magazine’s recipe for Braised Brisket with Bourbon-Peach Glaze. Start with a 3-4 pound beef brisket.
Part 1 – The Rub
1 T plus 1 t kosher salt
1 t. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
Rub on the brisket and refrigerate for two hours or overnight. Then remove from refrigerator and let stand on counter for one hour.
Part 2 – Brisket
2 T. olive oil, divided
3/4 cup chopped onion
3 garlic gloves, crushed
4 cups beef broth
1 12 oz bottle of stout beer
3/4 cup bourbon (I didn’t have and used scotch instead — not a great differentiator of the brown liquors)
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup soy sauce
Thyme 1 tsp.
2 celery stalks chopped
1 carrot chopped
1 T. balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Heat 1 T oil in an oven proof large pot. Sear brisket on both sides, about 5 minutes each side. Remove brisket to plate and cover to keep warm. Heat remaining oil in pot, add onions and garlic, stir until onion is slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients to pot, return brisket to pot, cover and place into oven. Cook for approximately 4 hours, brisket should be tender but still together. Remove brisket from pot, use stick blender to puree remaining braising liquid. Remove 1/4 cup of braising liquid and reserve. Return brisket to pan.
Part 3 – The Glaze
Take 1/4 c. reserved braising liquid, add 1/2 c. apricot or peach preserves ( I didn’t have peach and apricot worked just fine) and 2 T. bourbon (I skipped the bourbon/scotch in the glaze and it tasted just fine to me)
Mix together with stick blender or regular blender. Spread over brisket (fat side should be up and cross-hatched). Return to oven and broil for approximately 10 minutes until glaze has caramelized.
This was delicious! We served it over jasmine rice with scallions on top and it was absolutely great. A lot of oven time but well worth it in the end. Highly recommend.
- Beer-Braised Brisket of Beef (thedailymeal.com)
- Braised beef brisket (charlotte.news14.com)
- Beef Brisket with Caramelized Onions and Merlot Sauce (stevesacooking.com)
- Savory Beef Brisket (toomuchbutter.com)
Lately, when I am searching for a recipe, either for some new ingredient I want to use or simply to find a different way to make the same old ingredients, I find myself clicking on the “Images” link in Google instead of sifting through the recipes themselves. I mean, we all essentially eat with our eyes, don’t we? If something is visually appealing to us, it is more a recipe that we might give a whirl. I don’t know about any of you, but personally a cookbook without pictures (with the exception of my Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook) is a waste of good money. I want to see what the finished dish is supposed to look like before I attempt to cook it. I do not understand why cookbooks don’t have lots and lots of pictures. It would seem to me cookbooks sporting mouthwatering photos are more likely to sell than those that require you to imagine what the finished recipe is supposed to look like.
For example, don’t these just make you want to eat these?
Our first connection with our food, is usually its visual appeal. This is one of the reasons that presentation of food is all so important in restaurants. If it looks visually appealing and makes a nice presentation, we are eager to dig in and taste it, so we can confirm with our taste buds what our eyes are telling us.
Are you hungry yet?
What’s one to do with all the apples that we have literally lying around here? We’re not big applesauce fans so little sense to take the time and effort to can them into applesauce. While pie is a definite, I just haven’t really had the time to make pie and really not many have been around to eat it.
I have been trying a few different apple cake recipes to find the one, in the words of Little Bear, that is “just right”. Here are pictures of the latest incarnation.
There are still a plethora of tomatoes in the garden. I have roasted a lot of them. Now I am making crushed tomatoes with them that I am freezing to use later in tomato sauce, stews, soups and the like.
It’s a fairly simple process (which would be a lot simpler if I didn’t have to peel the tomatoes first)
1. Cut an x shaped slit into the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife.
2. Drop the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 1-2 minutes.
3. Remove from water and the skins should peel off with little effort.
You now have a naked tomato.
4. Then quarter the skinned tomatoes and place into food processor.
5. Blend to desired consistency. At this point you can place it in a pot to make sauce as you would with canned crushed tomatoes
Or put in a container to freeze.
you were at my house for breakfast this morning?
See, when I can’t sleep for whatever reason, I usually get up. No sense staring at the ceiling for hours. Then, when I’m up, I usually bake. Someone should benefit from my insomnia, don’t you think?
This morning I baked cinnamon buns from a recipe I got from WhatsCookingAmerica.net. They are some of the best cinnamon buns that I have made or tasted. I have adapted the recipe for my own taste.
Recipe – Ingredients (Buns)
1 cup milk (heat 1 minute in microwave)
1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
5 cups bread flour
3 teaspoons yeast
1. Mix together all ingredients in order given in stand mixer until well blended. Knead for approximately 3 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Remove from mixing bowl, place in a greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. About 1 hour.
2. After dough has risen, roll out into a rectangle about 13 x 9.
3. Use butter from filling recipe to spread across entire surface of dough.
4. Spread filling over butter.
5. Roll dough up into a log.
6. Cut into 14 pieces.
7. Place 7 pieces into one round 9 inch cake pan. Place the other 7 pieces into the other cake pan. Make sure that they are not touching.
8. Cover and let rise again, about one hour until they have doubled and are touching each other.
9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
10. Cook buns in oven for approximately 20 minutes until golden brown.
11. Remove and frost with glaze (recipe below).
Ingredients – Filling
1/2 cup softened butter
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
5 T. cinnamon
Mix together the cinnamon and sugar to form a cinnamon sugar. You will sprinkle this over your dough after you spread with the butter.
Ingredients – Frosting
1/4 c. softened butter
2 t. vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners sugar
2-3 T. milk
mix all ingredients together until a glaze forms. Add more milk if necessary to make a nice smooth glaze, but only add a little at a time or it will be too watery. Pour the glaze on top of the cinnamon buns and spread evenly. (I don’t use cream cheese as in the original recipe just because I don’t really care for the taste of it in my cinnamon bun)
It was a weekend full of jam. We picked raspberries, picked blueberries and grabbed strawberries at the farmer’s market. I made raspberry jam and mixed berry jam and blueberry jam.
Raspberries were picked at the bottom of the hill at Cole’s….that’s pretty much as close as we can get beside our own yard (and yes, we’re working on that).
This was how it looked crushed in the pot with low sugar pectin added….. I then added 4 cups of sugar (yes, that is the low sugar recipe) and brought it up to a boil. Jars were sterilized, filled, water bathed and then……
here is the finished product —yum. It’s amazing how your perspective changes when you start to can for yourself. Store bought just doesn’t cut it — no matter how expensive or fancy it purports to be. There is nothing that beats local and handmade.
The mixed berry jam was a first since it is not often that you can find local fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries all at the same time. It was definitely a hit…..delicious. I’ll be scouring around looking for more local strawberries in order to take advantage of the berry season.