Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sauteed Cabbage with Bacon and Onions

Okay. I wasn't sure if I should post this one because it's so, so basic and the name doesn't sound very appealing. Maybe calling it "rustic" adds a bit of charm? But believe me when I say it's good and you'll like it if you like bacon. My husband was very skeptical when I told him what I was making for dinner, but he took one bite and said, "I'm in love!" (and he actually told me to post that). It's kind of southernish-Germanish-stir fryish and goes great with steamed rice (either served on the side or with the cabbage on top) or egg noodles, and applesauce. I'm sure it would be good with soda bread, too! The recipe is also extremely versatile. You can use pretty much any size cabbage, whatever amount of onions you have, and just add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste.

Sorry, no photo, my husband suggested it but it's just too ugly!

Sauteed Cabbage with Bacon and Onions

1/4 lb bacon
1/2 large onion, halved and sliced into half rings
1 small green cabbage, quartered, cored, and cut into 1 inch slices (mine was 1.25 lb)
2 t sugar
1 t salt
1/4 t pepper

Place bacon in a large skillet and cook until crisp (use a splatter screen to avoid airborne grease!). I cook bacon over low heat on my stove, but bacon is one of those things I struggle with not burning and I get the feeling my approximately 500 year old stove cooks on the hot side. Remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate to cool, then crumble. Add onions to grease in skillet and saute until they start to soften a little bit (about 4 minutes). Add cabbage to skillet, breaking it up with your hand as you add it. Saute cabbage and onions until cabbage is as tender as you like, about 10 to 15 minutes. You can speed things along by covering the skillet. We like the cabbage so it's still a tiny bit crisp, but it's up to you. When finished, stir in sugar, salt, pepper, and crumbled bacon.

Yield: 4 servings

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie: Irish Soda Bread

Recently I learned about Tuesdays with Dorie, which is an online cooking/baking group that makes recipes from Dorie Greenspan's cook books. The group spent 4 years working its way through one of her books, and just last month they began a new book, called Baking with Julia. The whole deal is that the group picks two recipes from the book each month, and participants are supposed to make at least one of the recipes and then make a blog post about it on a specific day. Sounds like fun to me both because I would love to improve my baking skills and chatting with other food bloggers about baking is right up my alley.

Before jumping in, it was important though that I like the cook book I would be spending so much time with. My husband and I swung by Barnes and Noble so I could look over Baking with Julia, and I really liked what I saw. The book has recipes from all kinds of top bakers and very detailed instructions. It's quite a hefty book, too; hardcover with over 500 glossy pages and lots of photos. I quickly ordered a copy on and it arrived the other day, just in time to make the second of this month's recipes, Irish Soda Bread. So far I am thoroughly enjoying the group and can't wait to work my way through the book with them. Doubt I'll tackle the wedding cake recipe from Martha Stewart, but I'm game for most of the others, especially croissants.

On to Irish Soda Bread: I posted a nontraditional soda bread recipe the other day, but this is the real deal. Here's an interesting article about soda bread. Only four ingredients: flour (wheat or white depending on the occasion), salt, baking soda, and buttermilk. It certainly doesn't sound very exciting, but it was actually completely delicious!  My husband took a bite and said, "This is AMAZING!" A few years ago I made a traditional soda bread, but this is definitely superior. Flavorful, hearty, tender on the inside but with a crunchy crust. What more could you want in a bread recipe? It also happens to be the easiest bread (or biscuit or roll) recipe I've ever made so it will surely be on the menu frequently. Can't wait to have the leftovers toasted and topped with strawberry freezer jam tomorrow morning!

Part of the deal with the baking group is that participants are not supposed to post the recipe on their blog in an effort to encourage people to buy the book, but each recipe has a couple of hosts that are allowed to post the recipe. This week's hosts are Cathy at My Culinary Mission and Carla at Chocolate Moosey. Additionally, someone found this awesome video of Julia Child and Marion Cunningham (the author of another fantastic baking book I own called The Fannie Farmer Baking Book) making the Irish Soda Bread! My only suggestions are to start with 1 1/2 C buttermilk because I added it all and my dough was very sticky, and check to see if the bread is done after 40 minutes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Slow Cooker Corned Beef

Mmm, corned beef! I bought one in honor of St. Patrick's Day, but we ended up going to a Mexican restaurant. Not Irish at all, but apparently corned beef is more of an American thing, so whatevs. Today I did cook it though and used my slow cooker, which is my cooking vessel of choice for corned beef. I added a pound of chopped carrots which tasted great, but you could add potatoes and cabbage like this particular recipe suggests. NOTE: I have never cooked potatoes or cabbage with the corned beef, so no promises on how they turn out!

optional: 1 lb carrots and/or 1-2 lbs potatoes, peeled and chopped roughly
1/2 large onion, chopped roughly
3 lb corned beef brisket with spice packet
12 oz bottle of beer
water to cover
optional: 1/2 head cabbage, chopped roughly

Place carrots and/or potatoes in the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker and top with onion and beef. Sprinkle with spice packet. Pour in beer. Pour in enough water to cover the corned beef. Cook on low until tender, about 8 hours. If you want to add cabbage, stir that in when you have 1 hour left.

Yield: about 6 servings

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Cheddar Onion Soda Bread

This is a very good but very nontraditional soda bread that uses green onion and cheddar cheese and baking powder (which contains baking soda) instead of baking soda. I just realized that it's rather similar to the Buttermilk Cheddar Chive Bread recipe I posted a few months ago, but what can I say? My tastes are predictable :D This particular recipe is a version of one from AllRecipes. I made it for St. Patrick's Day last year and don't have a photo (you probably wouldn't want to see a photo as I dyed it green with food coloring), but I wanted to share it before the big green day in case anyone's looking for a fun and delicious soda bread recipe. It's tasty enough that you'll want to make it the rest of the year as well!

Cheddar Onion Soda Bread

4 C flour
1 T sugar
1 T baking powder
1 1/2 t salt
6 T butter at room temperature
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1/3 C sliced green onions
3/4 C cheddar cheese diced into small cubes

Preheat oven to 425 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, then stir in butter and buttermilk just until a dough forms. Don't overwork the dough. Gently knead in the green onions and cheddar cubes until evenly distributed, then divide the dough into two balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheet and flatten each into a 2 inch tall round loaf. Cut an X into the top of each loaf. Bake until golden and cooked through (you can stick a toothpick in the center), about 30 minutes. Cool before serving.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

Usually I only make any given recipe once or twice a year (or less) because I love trying new recipes, but this was my second time making Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce in the past month. The first time I tried it (using a combination of lots of recipes I found online), it tasted good, but was a little too mild so needed some tweaking. Tried it again tonight and the tweaks worked and the result is quite good! This pasta dish is a little spicy, a little creamy, and the vodka adds a little bit of something special. It's also very quick and easy to make and reheats pretty well. A winner in my book! If you were making it for someone you wanted to impress, you could increase the amount of cream and parmesan, but it's good as is, too.

Quick note: Be sure to use a decent quality vodka in the sauce. The first time I made this, I used a cheapo brand and it was rather lackluster, but the second time I used a higher quality brand and it definitely improved the flavor of the sauce. Also, whatever you do, be sure to simmer the sauce long enough to cook off the alcohol in the vodka, or you'll have some very strong tasting and slightly alcoholic pasta. You shouldn't really be able to taste the vodka in the finished dish, but the vodka does something magical to the tomatoes and enhances the flavors of the sauce. Here's an interesting thread I found on Chowhound with info about the purpose of vodka in vodka cream sauce.

Penne with Vodka Cream Sauce

1 lb penne pasta
1 T olive oil
1 c diced onion (or 1 1/2 t onion powder)
4 cloves minced garlic
1/4 to 1/2 t dried red pepper flakes
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
3/4 C decent quality vodka
2 t dried basil
1 t salt
1/2 C cream
1.5 oz (by weight) grated parmesan

Heat the oil over medium-high in a skillet and saute onion (if using) until almost tender, then add garlic and saute until golden. Add pepper flakes and saute another 30 seconds or so, then add in tomatoes, vodka, basil, salt, and onion powder (if you are not using diced onion). Reduce heat, cover with a splatter screen, and simmer 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. When there are about 10 minutes left, cook the penne in a large pot with 1 t salt added to the water. Drain and return to pot. Back to the sauce: Stir in cream, then pour over penne, stir to coat, and stir in the parmesan.

Yield: 6 main dish servings

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Southwestern Corn Chowder

It was 0 degrees Fahrenheit today and we spent the evening at the Ice Park, which was lots of fun. We stopped for hot chocolate while we were there, but walking around outside does make ya cold and it took a while to warm up after we got home. Good thing I was planning to make this spicy, filling soup! I've been meaning to make it for a couple of weeks, and tonight turned out to be the perfect occasion. The recipe is my twist on this one from AllRecipes and tonight was the first time I made it. I must say it turned out deliciously and we agreed it's definitely worth sharing. This isn't your standard corn chowder. The spices give it a great flavor, but the corn and black beans still shine through and it's deliciously creamy. My husband liked it enough to have extras. I'm really glad it turned out so well and will definitely make it again!

Southwestern Corn Chowder

2 T olive oil
1 C diced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
3 C chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegetarian)
16 oz can diced tomatoes with green chiles
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t salt
20 oz frozen corn, divided
16 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
8 oz cream cheese, softened

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium and saute onion until tender. Stir in garlic and saute another minute or so, then add broth, canned tomatoes, spices, and half of the corn. Heat until the corn is no longer frozen, then blend the mixture with an immersion blender. Add remaining corn and the black beans and heat through, then reduce heat to low. Whisk in the cream cheese until smooth and serve.

Yield: 6 to 8 bowls as a main dish

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Petticoat Tail Shortbread

My husband's birthday is today and he loves lemon meringue pie, so I decided to make him one. The plan was to make a shortbread crust, but when I removed it from the oven, it was apparent that it would make a terrible crust because it was so thick. There wouldn't be any space for the filling! So I made a different pie crust recipe for the lemon meringue pie and just sprinkled the shortbread with cinnamon sugar, then cut it into wedges to make petticoat tail shortbread. How adorable is the term "petticoat tails" for shortbread? Anyway, it's cooled now and is so, SO good. Buttery and crumbly and just cookie perfection. Amazing how something so simple can taste so great! The recipe may have flopped as a pie crust (though I suspect it would have worked if halved), but it makes delectable shortbread cookies.

Quick note: Here and here are some links with interesting information about the history of shortbread if you're like me and enjoy reading about your food! This isn't a completely authentic Scottish shortbread recipe because it uses wheat flour instead of oat flour and I add salt to enhance the flavor, but it's really good anyway. Cinnamon is also not part of the original, but everything is better with cinnamon. Next time I'll try topping it with lemon sugar. I'd imagine lemon zest combined with white sugar and allowed to steep for a while would make a pretty rockin' shortbread topping!

Petticoat Tail Shortbread

1 C salted butter
1/2 C sugar
2 C flour
1/4 t salt
cinnamon sugar

Preheat oven to 350. Beat together butter and sugar until fluffy. Mix in flour and salt. Press dough into the bottom of an ungreased 9 inch pie plate or cake pan, prick all over with a fork, and bake until lightly golden, about 20 minutes. Remove pan from oven and immediately sprinkle with cinnamon sugar to taste, then cut into wedges. Leave in pan to cool. Store cooled shortbread in an airtight container (or just cover the pan with foil).

Yield: 8 servings

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Asiago Garlic Herb Popcorn

For a variety of boring reasons, my husband and I didn't get around to having dinner until very late last night. Late enough that making the corn chowder I'd planned seemed ridiculous. Bare cupboards meant our options were pretty much oatmeal or popcorn. I remembered this amazing looking popcorn recipe from Our Best Bites (and am not the biggest fan of oatmeal anyway), so popcorn it was! It turned out very yummy and even rather gourmet, or at least as gourmet as popcorn can be. We sat on the couch and devoured it while hunched over the big plastic mixing bowl with a movie in the background. We may or may not have this popcorn for dinner again (no promises!), but I definitely plan to make it for the occasional treat!

Quick note: Grate the asiago with a micro plane grater (like this) so it's very fine and will melt onto the popcorn quickly. Also, make sure you have the butter mixture and grated asiago ready to go before you pop the popcorn because you want to add the cheese right away so it has a chance to melt. The cheese probably won't all melt on, but that's okay! If the popcorn cooled too fast and the cheese fell to the bottom of the mixing bowl instead of melting, you could try spreading the whole shebang on a large rimmed cookie sheet and baking it for a couple of minutes so the cheese will melt.

Asiago Garlic Herb Popcorn

1 T butter
1 T extra virgin olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1/2 t dried thyme
1/4 t dried basil
3/4 C very finely grated fresh asiago cheese (not packed into measuring cup)
1/2 C popcorn kernels
salt to taste

Melt the butter and olive oil together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until beginning to turn golden, a minute or two. Remove from heat and stir in thyme and basil. Pop popcorn and catch it in a large mixing bowl. As soon as popcorn has popped, drizzle over butter garlic mixture and sprinkle with asiago. Toss immediately to coat using a large mixing spoon, then add salt to taste and toss again.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Amazing Stove Top Mac and Cheese

I love cooking, but don't really like watching cooking shows or the Food Network. It's just not very interesting to me. I do like the recipes of some TV chefs, like Giada de Laurentiis (I have 3 of her books and have made a lot of her recipes with great success), but I've never seen her on TV. The only TV chef I enjoy watching is Alton Brown. My husband and I watch old episodes of his show sometimes. This particular mac and cheese recipe is his. It's one of those recipes that I saw online, realized I had all the ingredients, and scurried off to the kitchen to make. The method is rather different from most other mac and cheese recipes, and the result is delicious. Flavorful, cheesy, and as smooth and creamy as any Velveeta based sauce. The down side is that it doesn't reheat particularly well, but it's so easy to make that it's okay! You could try using another kind of cheese instead of the cheddar (maybe pepper jack, swiss, or a bit of parmesan?) and I'm sure those would be great, too.

Amazing Stove Top Mac and Cheese

8 oz macaroni
2 eggs
1 t salt
a sprinkle of pepper
1/2 t hot sauce (I use Frank's Red Hot Sauce)
1/2 t prepared yellow mustard
3/4 C milk
1/4 C butter, cut into pieces
10 oz freshly grated medium or sharp cheddar cheese

Cook macaroni in a large pot of lightly salted water. While it cooks, whisk eggs until smooth, then whisk in salt, pepper, hot sauce, and mustard. Whisk in milk. When macaroni is cooked, drain and return to pot. Put pot on stove over low heat and add butter. Stir until melted. Stir in egg and milk mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened: about 3 minutes. Remove pot from heat and stir in cheese.

Yield: 4 servings as a main dish, 6 as a side