Friday, October 26, 2012

Worms and Blood

It's that time of year again!  The time when I make all kinds of weird, creepy looking food (with gross names) in the spirit of Halloween and my sweet husband happily eats it all anyway.  I am definitely still a kid at heart and really enjoy making spooky food.  Last year, I made such delights as chocolate oatmeal with ghosts for breakfast, deviled eyes as a snack, and for dinner vampire bat legs with maggots, serpentine stromboli, and baked mice.  Dessert was honey caramel apples, which is not remotely creepy but still very festive. 

Some of these I plan to make again this year because they were so good, but of course I had to find some new fun recipes for this year!  To kick things off, I made the horrifying but yummy Worms and Blood.  Found the idea last year on Our Best Bites (go check out their blog if you want even more great Halloween food ideas).  Okay, so the worms are just sliced hot dogs and the blood is barbecue sauce.  The effect is pretty spooky though and it tastes quite good.  I used homemade barbecue sauce, but you can use whatever kind you want.  Enjoy!

Worms and Blood

8 hot dogs
1/2 T butter
1/2 C barbecue sauce

Slice each hot dog lengthwise into 8 pieces so they're long and skinny like worms.  Heat the butter in a skillet over medium-high and add the hot dogs.  Saute, stirring frequently, until the hot dogs curl up and get a little browned.  Reduce the heat and add the barbecue sauce, stirring until it's heated through.  Serve on hot dog buns.

Yield: About 6 sandwiches, depending on how much you put on each bun.  They reheat well, or you can very easily cook less hot dogs and just use less BBQ sauce.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Greek Pasta Skillet

Okay, so this isn't really Greek- it's more Greek inspired and I'm willing to bet anyone from Greece would be horrified at how unauthentic it is- but it sure tastes good!  The recipe is from McCormick and my mom's best friend printed out a copy for me to try about 10 years ago.  I made it soon after and my mother and I both liked it a lot!  Over the years I've made it for several people and they've all liked it, too.  A friend of mine who never eats leftovers was even excited to have it again the next night.  It looks like your standard quick 1 dish dinner recipe, but the addition of ground cinnamon and feta cheese really set it apart.  If you're suspicious of the cinnamon or especially sensitive to spices, you can try halving it, but I do encourage you to at least use some cinnamon as it really does a lot for the flavor.  This is a slightly tweaked double batch of the original recipe so it makes a lot (I make a big batch because we like it so much and it freezes well), but if you don't want lots of leftovers, just use the amounts in the original recipe to guide you.

Sorry about the rotini pasta in the photo.  I've made this recipe many times and have always used penne, but ended up with tricolor rotini this one time!  It was good, but penne holds up better against everything else going on in the dish.

Greek Pasta Skillet

1 T oil
1.25 lb package extra lean ground turkey
4 C chicken broth
28 oz can crushed tomatoes
6 oz can tomato paste
4 t oregano
2 t cinnamon
1 t onion powder
1 t garlic powder
12 oz by weight penne pasta (or whatever shape you want, I prefer penne)
1 lb frozen green beans
6 oz crumbled feta by weight

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium.  Crumble in ground turkey and cook until browned, stirring frequently.  Stir in tomato products and spices until well combined, then stir in pasta.  Reduce heat and simmer over low, stirring occasionally, until pasta is almost done, about 10 minutes.  Remove lid and stir in green beans and feta.  Simmer, covered, until beans and pasta are tender.

Yield: 10 servings

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Chocolate Ice Cream

If you love ice cream and have never had homemade, I really suggest that you invest in your very own ice cream maker.  I am honestly rather skeptical when people wax poetic about how much better homemade everything is because that often simply is not the case much for many things.  Homemade salsa?  Yum, definitely better than the jar!  Homemade bagels?  Good maybe, but difficult to make as well as a great bagel bakery, plus they take a ton of time and effort.  I'd rather leave the bagel making to the professionals.  However, ice cream is one of those things that really IS better when made at home.  As much as I love Ben and Jerry's, it doesn't compare to fresh, homemade ice cream.

When I was growing up, we had a hand crank one and every once in a while made a batch, which was of course a ton of fun for a little kid.  Then when I was in high school, was having a big sale on Cuisinart ice cream makers and I convinced my mom that it was time for an upgrade.  Her favorite food is ice cream so not much convincing was necessary!  I can't remember ever having a batch turn out poorly.  I made regular flavors like chocolate, but also coconut cream ice cream and kiwi sorbet.  You can even use an ice cream maker to make slushies using any liquid.  7Up with a bit of coconut extract added is my favorite!  Sadly, I hadn't made any ice cream since I moved out of my mom's house 7 years ago as she was unwilling to part with it, but my husband's parents gave us a Cuisinart ice cream maker just like the one my mom has.  Our ice cream maker is great and I highly recommend it, though there's a new model out that comes in all manner of beautiful colors.

For the first recipe in our ice cream maker, I decided to go with good ol' chocolate since my husband is a complete chocolate fiend.  I slightly altered this recipe I found on AllRecipes- added more chocolate and strained the mixture to make completely sure the finished product wouldn't have lumps- and it is just perfect.  Creamy, rich, deep flavor, and chocolaty but not overwhelmingly so.  The vanilla adds a wonderful touch.  It is quite easy to make, too, so a great recipe if you've never made ice cream before!  You can either serve it fresh from the ice cream maker, in which case the texture will be more like soft serve (which is how I prefer it!):

Or you can scoop the ice cream into a container and freeze it for a few hours until it's firmer and scoop it up then (how my husband preferred it):

Either way, you can't go wrong with this recipe!  We will definitely have it again and I am really looking forward to experimenting with new recipes.  Up next will be either cake batter ice cream (again, for my husband), cherry ice cream, ginger ice cream, or mint cookies and cream ice cream.  So many choices!

Chocolate Ice Cream

3 egg yolks
3/4 C sugar
2 T cocoa powder
1/4 t salt
1 C milk
3 oz (by weight) semisweet chocolate chips
2 C heavy cream
1 t vanilla extract

Beat egg yolks with a fork in a 1 C measuring cup, set aside.  In a small saucepan, whisk together sugar, cocoa powder, and salt.  Whisk in milk.  Heat over medium, whisking constantly, until mixture comes to a simmer.  Remove from heat and quickly whisk about a tablespoon of the mixture into the beaten egg yolks.  Once incorporated, whisk in another tablespoon, then another, then start whisking in slightly large additions.  Continue until you have 3/4 C of egg yolk mixture.  Briskly whisk egg yolk mixture back into pan.  Return to stove and heat over medium low, whisking constantly, until slightly thickened- about 2 minutes.  Don't let the mixture boil.  Remove pan from heat and set aside for a minute so it can cool slightly, then whisk in the chocolate chips.  Pour mixture through a fine mesh sieve and refrigerate until completely cooled, about 2 hours.  When you're ready to make the ice cream, whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla extract.  Freeze mixture according to the directions for your ice cream machine.

Yield: 6 servings

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Applesauce Drop Cookies with Browned Butter Icing

This is another recipe from the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, and just perfect for autumn.  I've been planning to make it for months and have actually set out the ingredients on the counter a few days ago before finally making them yesterday.  We had our first snow yestday, about 2 inches of light fluff.  Living in Alaska means you have to accept the fact that you'll be surrounded by snow for 7 months of the year, and I have to admit that I was a bit happy to see it again!

In any case, these soft, spicy cookies were the perfect treat to make in honor of the first snow of winter.  They are very cakey-- to the point that you could probably make some fantastic cupcakes with no changes to the recipe-- and the dough is more like a thick batter.  While the applesauce flavor is not really apparent, it does make them very moist.  Another blogger described these cookies as being "senior citizen cookies", which I thought was so funny!  Especially since they are extremely similar to Pumpkin Spice cookies, a lifelong favorite of mine that were incidentally the only cookies I would eat as a child.  So much for being old!  They are delicious and a great choice if you love spices like cinnamon and cloves as much as me, regardless of your age.  Also, while the cookies are very good on their own, the addition of the creamy vanilla frosting with a hint of browned butter makes them even better.  Last of all, this recipe is a good choice if you need spur of the moment cookies since you don't need to let any cold ingredients warm up and don't need to mess with rolling out cookie dough or forming balls.

As usual for me, I changed the recipe quite a bit.  The original called for coffee and well drained applesauce, but I chose to leave out the coffee and use regular applesauce.  It also called for chopped nuts (which you are free to add if you feel so inclined), 1/2 t less cinnamon, and 1/2 t more nutmeg.  I do like nutmeg, but unlike cinnamon I think it's best in small amounts and the 1/2 t I used was just right.  The recipe also said and to refrigerate the dough for 2 hours before baking.  I wanted to see how they would turn out without being refrigerated so just went ahead and baked them and they turned out perfect, each cookie about half an inch thick.  Wouldn't really want them any thicker!  Also, don't know what this says about me, but the recipe made half as many recipes as it said it would and I needed twice as much of the icing.  Come to my house if you want to get sugared up.

As a side note, I just realized that all of the recipes from the Cooky Book that I've shared on the blog so far have been drop cookies!  Kind of odd since I really don't make drop cookies very often.  Guess I need to pick another section of the book next time!  In my defense, I've actually made 2 non-drop cookies from the Cooky Book so far and just haven't shared them on the blog yet.  As tempting as Orange Drop Cookies and Pineapple Drop Cookies look to me, I think next I will try Oatmeal Coconut Crispies.  Yum.

Applesauce Drop Cookies

1 C shortening
2 C packed brown sugar
2 eggs
2 C applesauce
3 1/2 C flour
1 C golden raisins
1 t salt
1 t baking soda
1 1/2 t cinnamon
1 t cloves
1/2 t nutmeg

Preheat oven to 400 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Mix together shortening, brown sugar, and eggs until smooth, then mix in applesauce.  Add other ingredients and mix just until well combined.  Drop dough by tablespoons onto cookie sheets, with 2 inches between cookies.  Bake until set and lightly golden, about 9 to 12 minutes.  Let cookies cool on sheets for 10 minutes, then cool completely on cooling racks.  Whether or not you choose to add the icing, store the cookies between layers of wax paper in the refrigerator.

Yield: 4 dozen medium sized cookies (you will of course get more if you make small cookies, which I do not!)

Browned Butter Icing

5 T butter
3 T cream (could probably use milk)
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
about 2 1/2 C powdered sugar

Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat, stirring constantly once it melts.  You want to brown the butter slowly, over a low heat, and in a small pan stirring all the while so it doesn't burn.  Cook until the butter becomes light brown.  Immediately remove from heat and stir in the cream, then the vanilla extract.  Stir in powdered sugar until you have icing that is thick enough to spread easily but is not drippy.  Immediately spread icing on cooled cookies and let set completely before you put the cookies away.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Dirty Rice with Turkey Sausage

 When I was a kid, I was a very picky eater.  Not so much with veggies or grains, but with dairy and especially meat.  This meant that I didn't like much of what my mom served for dinner and I was often happy to just eat rice and veggies while everyone else ate the meat.  Without fail, I topped my rice with Messina's Cajun Creole Seasoning, which my dad brought home from a trip to New Orleans.  I just loved Messina's!  That was 17 years ago and while I'm now much less picky, I still love Messina's.  Lucky for me, my dad now lives in Louisiana so I can pick up jars of Messina's whenever I visit.

Now that my little story is out of the way, on to the recipe!  This is a thoroughly tweaked version of Christy Jordan's Dirty Rice over on Southern Plate.  Don't get me wrong- the original version is really good (if not authentic, since it's supposed to be made with chicken gizzards), but I'm not a fan of sausage and it turned out SO GREASY!  So the next time I decided to use ground turkey seasoned with spices you'd find in sausage.  Then the next time I figured out that you can just cook the rice in the skillet with the turkey, cutting down on dishes.  If you're in a hurry though, you can steam the rice in the chicken broth while you cook the peppers and turkey.  It's up to you!  Also, feel free to use fresh bell pepper and onion (one of each).  I went with frozen because it was $1.50 for a 12 oz bag and whole bell peppers were $3 apiece.

For the Cajun seasoning, you can use whichever you like, but how much you enjoy the finished dish will of course depend on how much you like the seasoning.  My husband likes Messina's, too, so we both really enjoy this dinner.  It's very yummy, easy, and pretty healthy to boot.  Perfect with a salad on the side!

Dirty Rice with Turkey Sausage

1 T olive oil
12 oz frozen onion and bell pepper strips
1 stalk celery, diced (optional)
1 1/4 lb extra lean ground turkey
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t ground ginger
1/2 t dried sage
1/2 t dried thyme
1 t dried parsley
3 C chicken broth
1 1/2 C uncooked rice
Cajun seasoning to taste

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high.  Saute onions, peppers, and celery until browned.  Remove to a bowl.  Add ground turkey to skillet and immediately sprinkle on the garlic and spices.  Use a spatula to break up the raw meat and to incorporate the spices.  When turkey has cooked fully, add the chicken broth and bring to a boil.  Add rice, stir well, cover, and reduce heat to low.  Let cook completely undisturbed (don't lift the lid!) for 20 minutes so the rice can steam properly.  When rice is cooked, add peppers back to the skillet and stir to combine, then add Cajun seasoning to taste (I use 1 1/2 t) and mix thoroughly before serving.

Yield: 6 servings

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ham & Cheese Hedgie Bread

I've seen this type of bread around the internet under the names hedgehog bread, bread pulls, and blooming bread.  Whatever you want to call it, one thing is certain:  it is DELICIOUS!  I mean really, really good; perfect for an occasional treat or a fun appetizer for a small group. The bread has interested me ever since I saw it over at The Girl Who Ate Everything, and this is my spin- I kind of combined her Bloomin' Onion Bread and her Ham and Cheese Sliders recipes.  Even though I made this back in May and just hadn't posted it yet, looking at the picture makes me want some RIGHT NOW!

Ham & Cheese Hedgie Bread

8 oz mini sourdough bread boule (California Goldminer Sourdough is what I used)
4 oz shaved ham, cut into 1 inch squares (I used sundried tomato rosemary ham)
4 oz thinly sliced cheddar, cut into 1/2 inch strips
3 T thinly sliced green onions
4 T butter
1 1/2 t poppy seeds
2 t dijon mustard
1/4 t Worcestershire sauce

Preheat oven to 350 and place a large piece of aluminum foil on a baking sheet.  Cut bread to look like a hedgehog, going first one direction, then the other, and being sure not to cut all the way through the bottom crust.  A serrated knife works best for this.  Place sliced loaf on the baking sheet.  Stuff in cheese (you may need to break the pieces more), then ham, then sprinkle on green onions, then spoon on butter mixture.  Wrap with the foil.  Bake covered 10 minutes, then unwrap and bake 10 minutes more, or until cheese is melted and bread is light golden.  Serve immediately with lots of napkins, but watch out for burned fingers!

Yield: about 6 servings

Fruit Pizza

It's recipe catch up time!  This is a recipe I kind of made up this past summer.  I say "kind of" because fruit pizza is hardly a unique concept, but I did use my own recipe for the crust and the cream cheese filling.  In any case, this is a very yummy, easy, pretty, and summery dessert!  A sugar cookie spread with lemony cream cheese and topped with fresh fruit.  What's not to like?!  You can use pretty much any fruit you want on top.

Fruit Pizza

2/3 C shortening
3/4 C sugar
1 egg
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 t lemon extract
2 C flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 C sugar
1/2 t lemon extract
1/4 t vanilla extract


sliced fruit of your choice (I used blueberries, kiwi, mango, papaya, and pineapple)

Preheat oven to 375 and lightly grease a 12 inch springform pan.  Cream together shortening and sugar until fluffy, then beat in eggs and extracts until smooth, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Add flour, baking powder, and salt, and mix just until combined, being sure not to over mix.  Evenly press the dough in the bottom of a springform pan, building up the edges a bit.  Bake the crust until lightly golden, 10 to 15 minutes.  Let cool completely.  You can stick it in the refrigerator to speed things along.

When the crust has cooled, make the filling.  Beat together the filling ingredients until smooth, then spread on top of the crust.  If you're going to serve it immediately, top with the fruit and serve.  If you're going to serve it later, just cover the pan with plastic wrap (leave the sides of the pan attached to the base!) and add the fruit soon before serving.  You can add the fruit a few hours ahead of time and it will be okay, but the fruit releases some juice so it's ideal to wait if you can.

Yield: about 12 servings

Quadruple Peanut Butter Cookies

Ohhhh gosh.  If you love peanut butter as much as I do, you MUST make these cookies as soon as humanly possible.  This is my version of a recipe from Sally's Baking Addiction and produces soft, thick, super peanut buttery cookies filled with peanut butter cups AND peanut butter chips AND Reese's Pieces (my addition).  The Reese's Pieces add even more peanut butter flavor, a little bit of crunch, and make them prettier.

These cookies are simply amazing.  My husband has a strong preference for chocolate chip cookies and isn't wild about peanut butter cookies, but even he loves these.  I consider myself to be a bit of a peanut butter cookie connoisseur and I think they're pretty perfect.  The recipe also doubles very well, just go on and dump the whole 10 oz bag of PB chips in if you go that route.

Quick note: The original recipe says to refrigerate the cookie dough for half an hour.  I have never done that with this recipe and they turn out very plump anyway, to the point that I flatten them ever so slightly before baking and they're still nice and thick.
Quadruple Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 C butter
1/2 C brown sugar
1/4 C sugar
1 egg
3/4 C peanut butter
1 t vanilla extract
1/2 baking soda
1 1/4 C flour
3/4 C peanut butter chips (in the baking aisle)
3/4 C coarsely chopped peanut butter cups (about 6 regular sized PB cups)
1/4 C Reese's Pieces, plus another 3/4 C or so to put on top

Preheat oven to 350 and line cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Cream together butter and sugars.  Beat in egg, peanut butter, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Mix in baking soda and flour, being careful not to over mix.  Stir in peanut butter chips, peanut butter cups, and the 1/4 C Reese's Pieces. 

Form dough into walnut sized balls and place 1 1/2 inches apart on cookie sheets.  Press 5 Reese's Pieces into the top of each cookie dough ball and very gently flatten with your palm to help the candy stick.  Bake until lightly golden and set, about 8 to 12 minutes, depending on your oven.  Let cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes, then finish cooling on a wire rack.

Yield: about 24

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tuesdays with Dorie: Cranberry Pumpkin Loaf

Okay, so this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe is for Cranberry WALNUT Pumpkin Loaf: a beautiful yeast bread with a hint of spice and full of pumpkin, cranberries and golden raisins.  I left out the walnuts because there is only 1 kind of bread that I have ever enjoyed with nuts in it.  The recipe also called for fresh cranberries but our store didn't have any, so I used dried cranberries.  I also halved the amount of nutmeg because I'm not the biggest fan of it, and I used allspice to make up the difference.

Must admit this is not a recipe I would usually make, but that is the entire reason I joined this baking group: to broaden my baking horizons.  While I like pumpkin bread okay, I already have a favorite recipe.  Also, neither of us care for dried fruit in our baked goods, especially not yeast breads.  However, the concept of a pumpkin yeast bread was intriguing, so I decided to go for it.

Anyway, to the actual recipe, which you can check out over at the blog This Bountiful Backyard.  This was another easy bread recipe, but definitely time consuming.  After you make the dough, it has to rise at room temperature for a couple of hours, then go into the fridge overnight, then sit out at room temperature for four more hours, then rise for another two hours after being shaped into loaves.  A number of TWD participants just skipped the fridge time and next time I make it (there will be a next time!), I will skip it as well.  I'd also like to try forming the dough into balls and baking them all in a 9 by 13 pan as rolls.  They would be the perfect addition to the Thanksgiving or Christmas table!

The verdict:  This bread is very nice.  The bit of spice is great and surprisingly, we both really like the dried fruit.  Good texture, too, and perfect when cut into thick slices.  I was expecting a dense bread, but it really isn't very dense.  The loaf in my picture looks like it didn't rise much, but it actually rose like a champ- the recipe calls for the bread to be baked in 3 tiny pans but I used 2 big pans so my bread is small.  I love how it looks- the orange bread with the yellow and red fruit is just beautiful, and it smelled wonderful both while the dough was being made and while it baked.  Just like autumn! 

Oh and funny side story- we adopted a stray cat from the local animal shelter last week and named him Declan.  He is a very friendly, laid back guy and spent 5 hours sleeping on the couch this evening, with us periodically nudging him and rolling him over to make space for ourselves.  At one point when the cat was kind of awake, my husband tried to get him to stand by lifting his side up.  As soon as he let go, Declan flopped back onto his side :D  Anyway, the thing that finally woke up the cat was the smell of this bread when we sat down on the couch with our slices!  And boy, was he awake FAST and trying to get his fair share!

Two minutes after we ate our bread, he was back to sleeping, but the next day he yoinked a discarded heel of Cranberry Pumpkin Loaf out of the trash can!