30 March 2009

Banana Crunch Muffins

I have been on a muffin kick lately - we are usually cereal or toast eaters for breakfast, but lately I've just wanted a nice bakery good instead. And muffins are much healthier than fried and iced donuts ;)

Now, these aren't the healthiest muffins but my GOSH -they are good! The chunks of bananas in the muffin help to keep it moist and ensure you really get that banana flavor. The granola, nuts, and coconut help to give a great texture as well. And that crunchy topping is genius. I just made sure that I bought extra coconut/almonds/granola to make the recipe, and mixed them all together to top the muffins. Worked perfectly.

Um, this recipe makes a TON of muffins too, by the way. I halved it and still got 15 muffins out of it (!). Enough for lunches and snacks for the Hubster. And believe me, these still didn't stick around for long.

Banana Crunch Muffins
(from Ina Garten)

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c.sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp.baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra-large eggs
3/4 c. whole milk
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 c. mashed ripe bananas (2 bananas)
1 c. medium-diced ripe bananas (1 banana)
1 c. small-diced almonds
1 c. granola
1 c. sweetened shredded coconut
Additional granola, almonds, or shredded coconut for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Line 18 large muffin cups with paper liners. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the melted butter and blend. Combine the eggs, milk, vanilla, and mashed bananas, and add them to the flour-and-butter mixture. Scrape the bowl and blend well. Don't overmix.

Fold the diced bananas, walnuts, granola, and coconut into the batter. Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each 1 to the top. Top each muffin with dried banana chips, granola, or coconut, if desired.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the tops are brown and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly, remove from the pan, and serve.

28 March 2009

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream

Mmmm. Cherries. Chocolate. Thank goodness, my sister Anne keeps me in the good chocolate and the Trader Joe's dried cherries :) One of her packages included a dark chocolate cherry bar, and I put it to good use in this ice cream!

I went with a basic vanilla base, then added the juice from some frozen (thawed) cherries. Threw in the chopped chocolate bar and cherries at the and, and voila - cherry chocolate heaven.

PS: Nobody wants to hear about my hurried days, yes? That's okay, I don't really want to complain about them. But! Today we are supposed to be snowed in, so a weekend trip has been cancelled last minute. My house is clean and we have no plans, so I'm making freezer meals and preparing posts for the blog. So look out! No more long spans with no posts, I promise!

Cherry Chocolate Ice Cream
(Adapted from Alice Q. Foodie)

2 1/4 c. whole milk
1 c. sugar
6 egg yolks
2/3 c. cherry juice or syrup from a can or jar (I used the juice from my bag of frozen cherries)
2/3 c. half and half
1 1/2 c. (thawed) frozen cherries, roughly chopped
1 c. bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Heat the milk and pinch of salt in a 2 qt. saucepan over medium-high heat until scalded (bubbles will begin to form at the edge and it will smell "cooked"). In a separate bowl, beat the sugar and egg yolks together until thick and smooth.

Whisk a little of the hot milk into the sugar and yolk mixture, and then very slowly add the rest, whisking continuously. Pour the egg, milk and sugar mixture back into the pan, and cook over medium- high heat, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon, until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon (about 6-8 minutes).

Pour the custard mixture into a shallow metal bowl. Set in an ice water bath and stir to cool - or simply allow to cool at room temperature for a few minutes and place in the refrigerator (use a towel if you have glass shelves). When the custard is thoroughly chilled, stir in the half and half and the cherry juice, reserving the cherries. Refrigerate overnight.

Freeze custard in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Add the cherries and chocolate pieces when the ice cream is frozen to a soft consistency. Transfer to a container and ripen in the freezer for 3-4 hours before serving.

21 March 2009

Homemade Oreos

Sorry for all those delays! The Hubs now works from home (thank you, Hub's employer! You are saving us lots of commuting $$$ a year...). But: our home computer is kinda therefore busy when he's working, which means I can't get online at home until 7pm or so. And lately, it tends to crap out when I log on. The Internet provider is promising no more problems so: for now, the blog is back!

I made these a few weeks ago, and they were a HIT - tastes just like the real thing. My cookies were a little poofier than necessary (I didn't use Dutch process cocoa, probably the culprit), but they were still great. Crunchy, slightly salty, deep-chocolate cookies with a creamy (lard-filled!) cream center. Mmmm. Thankfully I took these to a potluck, so we didn't have them hanging around the house. That could have been dangerous. For my already-expanding waistline.

Homemade Oreos

For the chocolate wafers:
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 to 1 1/2 cups sugar [see recipe note]
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1 large egg

For the filling:
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature, unsalted butter
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Set two racks in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 375 F.

In a food processor, or bowl of an electric mixer, thoroughly mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. While pulsing, or on low speed, add the butter, and then the egg. Continue processing or mixing until dough comes together in a mass.

Take rounded teaspoons of batter and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet approximately two inches apart. With moistened hands, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the cream, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, in a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch, round tip, pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. Continue this process until all the cookies have been sandwiched with cream. Dunk generously in a large glass of milk.

18 March 2009

Hi hi

Hi there!

We're currently experiencing a few... ah... "technical difficulties" on the blog, but rest assured - new posts to be up no later than the weekend time.

Until then: happy week to you! Miss Sous Chef Mahni also sends her love, and a quick pictorial to tide you over.

Mahni Presents: Things I Love To Do With My Second-Favorite Auntie (Miss Tinnie):

We love to paint our toes while we trade celebrity gossip!

We love to go to Crayola Land and play!

We also love to dance in front of the mirror!

And we love to read magazines in bed (while eating snacks)!

We love to do The Bump dance!

And order food over the phone at Fritz's Restaurant!

But most of all, we love to dance with our bikini tops on over our clothing while in hotel rooms!

The End!

13 March 2009

Huevos Rancheros

It's Lent. That means not only a time of reflection and penance, but also for some of us: it also means meatless Fridays. Now, I love a good Fish Fry as much as the next person, and my church in particular does a fantastic version that we enjoy most Fridays in Lent. But sometimes, I'm in more of a "let's just eat at home" mood. And I don't want to pull out the batter and frying pan and make cole slaw, I just want a quick dinner and some quality time snuggling on the couch with a good book or movie on the TV.

Enter: Huevos Rancheros. Or more specifically: Smitten Kitchen's version of Huevos Rancheros.

I looooove these things. They are mad-easy to make, are healthy, and come together in no time at all. I usually make the salsa and beans ahead of time, and they both keep in the fridge forever if you want to make these on the fly during the week. Because to be honest: these are awesome any day of the week, not just Fridays during Lent.

These also rock because they are simple to do to order! Hubs likes to pile his Huevos Rancheros high with the beans, salsa, and topped with some meat (this time some leftover on top of the salsa and beans combo. So if you have picky eaters at home that expect a short-order cook, you can indulge them for an evening. Huevos Rancheros For Dinner = Total Win.

Huevos Rancheros
(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

6-inch corn tortillas
Shredded cheddar cheese (I used a pre-shredded Mexican cheese blend)
Salt and pepper to taste
Black beans (see recipe below)
Salsa fresca (see recipe below)
Cilantro, sour cream, Tabasco, etc. Whatever you want to use to top them...

First, make your black beans and salsa fresca. If you are not feeling up to it: Jen @ SmittenKitchen recommends Goya Black Bean Soup, and I think that a good jarred salsa works just fine instead of the salsa fresca. Prep any other toppings you want to use: shred the cheese, chop the cilantro, get out the sour cream...

Now it's time to cook the egg and tortilla. NOTE: Take Jen's advice to heart: this is not going to win any "prettiest dish" awards, it's gonna be sloppy and untidy. Don't worry about that, it's gonna taste fantastic.

First, heat a medium pan (I used a nonstick, that works the best) over a medium-low or low heat (whatever works best on your stovetop for regular fried/cooked eggs). Get a little spray Pam or oil in that pan, just enough for a slight coat of oil.

Toss a corn tortilla in the heated pan. When it is golden brown underneath, flip it over. Sprinkle the browned side with a small amount of shredded cheese (2-3 tablespoons let's say), and let it melt a bit.

Once the cheese gets melty: break a single egg over the cheese, directly on the tortilla. NOTE: the whites will ooze off the tortilla and it's going to look messy. This is perfectly fine! I tidy mine up and push the whites around the tortilla, but it's not necessary. Salt and pepper to taste.

Cook the egg/tortilla until the whites around the sides are set and the middle whites just start to set. Now, flip the tortilla/egg. This is where it's going to be totally and completely messy. That's okay! Cook for a few more minutes to cook the egg through, then flip onto a plate.

Yay, all done! Now you just need to top it. Pile on the black beans, the salsa, and anything else that strikes your fancy (hot sauce, jalapeno slices, sour cream, more cheese...). The Hubster loves meat, so he chopped some breakfast steak and added it to his, as you can see from the photo. I think this is filling enough without any meat substance included...

For the black beans:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 c. chopped onion
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat a splash of canola oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well, don't worry about smashing some of the beans (it will help with the texture). Cook until heated through, then keep warm until serving.

For the salsa fresca:
2 large fresh ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 large white onion, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon minced raw garlic, or to taste
1 habanero or jalapeƱo pepper, stemmed, seeded and minced, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice or 1 teaspoon red-wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Let the flavors marry for 15 minutes or so before serving, but serve within a couple of hours. Note: I think this keeps well for at least a few days in the fridge.

05 March 2009

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

You know how the best part of a chocolate chip cookie is the texture? That whole crisp-yet-soft combo they have going on? Well, I was totally in the mood for that kind of cookie, but didn't want it from a chocolate chip cookie. I wanted a peanut-butter cookie with that sort of texture instead.

Problem is: most peanut butter cookies are either soft throughout, or crunchy. At least those I've encountered. Hmm. So I did what any girl would do - I went to see what Queen Dorie would say. Wouldn't you know it, she gives a variation of her chocolate chip to do just such a thing. Sah-weet.

These cookies turned out exactly as I wanted: a nice crispy outside with a soft, gooey interior. These are best warm, just like that perfect chocolate chip cookie (a few seconds in the microwave will help for those past the out-of-the-oven point). I was smart enough to send these away as a hostess gift and office offerings, otherwise I could have easily porked out on the entire 4 dozen of them...

Peanut Butter Cup Cookies

2 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. peanut butter
1 c. granulated sugar
2/3 c. packed light brown sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Sift together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with a paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter together on medium speed for about 1 minute, until smooth.

Add the sugars and beat for another 2 minutes or so, until well blended and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each egg goes in.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients in 3 portions, mixing only until each addition is incorporated. On low speed, or by hand with a rubber spatula, mix in the mini cups.

Spoon out rounded tablespoons of dough and roll between your palms, to make a ball. Roll in sugar and place onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between spoonfuls. Flatten balls slightly with a fork or decorative press.

Bake the cookies – one sheet at a time and rotating the sheets at the midway point – for 10 to 12 minutes, or until they are brown at the edges and golden in the center; they may be still a little soft in the middle, and that’s just fine.

Pull the sheet from the oven and allow the cookies to rest for 1 minute, then carefully using a wide metal spatula, transfer them to racks to cool to room temperature.

03 March 2009

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I've been a bit of a late bloomer in life, it's true. It took me a little while to get into things, take fashion for example. But! When I did, I did so with a vengeance, I assure you. Hence the Prada and Jimmy Choo dust bags littering my closet along with about 70 back issues of Vogue and a catalog of models' stats in my noodly little brain.

Well, there is sadly still a bit of this in me today. Like, can you believe I had never really read Smitten Kitchen until just a few weeks ago? Oh, yeah. Like, for real. I mean, I had heard of the blog and a few people spoke of the gorgeous photography on the blog, but I just never made my way over there. I even made a recipe from the site once, but I must have been in a hurry and didn't look up at all.

Well, whew! That was a mistake. I was just bee-bopping around on the Internet the other day and fell into one of Jen's posts, and my goodness - sucked right in. And as per my usual personality, I gobbled up her posts with a vengeance, like sat there oogling the photos and reading posts for at least a good few hours. And I copied like a million recipes. So be forewarned, there will be lots of Smitten Kitchen goodies probably posted on here in the future. I'll try to contain myself and spread them out a bit if that helps.

And on to the first of many I'm sure :) First up: Blueberry Bars. I wanted to make a bar recipe to take to my last book club meeting, but couldn't decide what to make. I didn't want anything too chocolatey, I had had my fill of peanut butter treats for awhile... And then, these screamed up at me to make them. Perfect! Especially in the winter, when you're starting to crave some fruit again. They were tart-ish but sweet, definitely buttery, and that crumbly topping is just to die for. Great recipe!

These bars will be my go-to fruit bar recipe from here on out, as I can see them in a million different incarnations, with peaches or cherries or strawberries or cranberries...

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(from allrecipes.com, by way of Smitten Kitchen)

1 c. white sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
3 c. all-purpose flour
1 c. cold butter (2 sticks)
1 egg
1/4 tsp. salt
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 c. fresh blueberries
1/2 c. white sugar
4 tsp. cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, and baking powder. Mix in salt and lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Dough will be crumbly. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Gently mix in the blueberries. Sprinkle the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough.

Bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely before cutting into squares.