Monday, October 26, 2009

Country Cornbread

This goes great with Chili or Bean soup or well just about anything and it is so easy and so fast.

1 cup Whole wheat pastry flour
4 Teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup corn meal
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
1/3 olive oil
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 with a 12 inch cast iron pan in the oven.
Combine flour, baking powder, salt, cornmeal, and sugar in a large bowl.
Combine eggs, milk, and 1/3 cup oil in a small bowl; add to dry ingredients. Stir until dry ingredients are moistened.
Add 2 T. oil to hot cast iron pan and then spoon in the cornbread batter. Bake for about 25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. If using a smaller cast iron pan cook time will be longer, but it will work fine.

Heating the pan first gives a nice dark crusty bottom to the cornbread that I just love. Everyone that I have ever served this to loved it also.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Sweet Potato Stew

While I couldn't be at the recent MLFB gathering, the following recipe is one I would, undoubtedly, have loved to bring along. Sweet potatoes are in season in Japan at the moment and can be found in everything from desserts to main courses to appetizers. A little different than their American cousins - deep purple skin with a bright yellow interior that holds its own even after cooking - we've been happily chomping away at the recent harvest from the farm.

Here's my version of this original recipe I found on Epicurious years ago. It's a sure crowd pleaser, and it tastes good the moment it's made. The orange juice base makes it good for warding off colds, too.

Joan's Sweet Potato Stew
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups (or one whole medium to large onion) chopped a bit coarsely
2 tablespoons fresh minced ginger (without is ok, too, but it is a lovely addition)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
2-3 medium to largeish peeled sweet potatoes, cubed
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
2-3 cups of orange juice
1 15 ounce can of black beans (2 is good, too) rinsed and drained

Heat the oil in the soup pan, throw in the onion, and cook covered until the onion is well-cooked and soft. I find the longer I cook it (without burning it) the better. Throw in the garlic, ginger, and cumin, and cover again. Toss in the cubed sweet potatoes, stir, and add the orange juice. I tend to add orange juice until the mixture is covered and the sweet potato bits are swimming a little. Then I throw in the beans, and let it simmer along until the sweet potatoes are done.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

SOUPer Exchange!

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of spending some time with my friends, the Michigan Lady Food Bloggers! This time around, we had an Oktoberfest beer tasting + soup exchange. This means, of course, that I got to eat soup, take soup home and drink some beer in my little Arbor Brewing Company tasting glass.

For my part, I brought some French Onion soup for the exchange, some butterscotch bars to snack on and Bell's Brown Ale to share.

The recipe for the French Onion soup is ridiculously simple. Since I worked all day Friday, I had to have something crock pot friendly, and here is what I did:

I sliced up about 6 large onions the night before, and sauteed them in 1 stick of butter (mmmm!!!! Smelled like Thanksgiving morning).

On Friday, I put about 60 oz of beef broth (I cheated here and used some organic stuff that I found at Kroger), 1 tsp of Worcestershire sauce and some bay leafs (plus the onions, of course) into my crock pot. Then I put it onto the slow setting, plugged it in and went off to work.

When I came home, the house smelled great! I sent Jeff off to Morgan and York for some bread and cheese. He came home with a loaf of French bread and some very yummy farmers soft cheese. Once I got to Alison's house, we put some cheese on the bread, broiled it and there we had it!

Here are our lovely soup pots:

We also had snacks!! For my part, I brought something from the Brass Sisters' cookbook and as always, my girls didn't disappoint. I made the butterscotch bars with brown sugar meringue topping.

You will need:
2 cups pecan pieces (I only had walnut, so that's what I used this time; I've used pecan before and either type of nut is fine)
1.5 c flour
1.5 t baking powder
1/8 t salt
1 c brown sugar
1/2 c cold butter, cut into dice
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla

For topping:
2 egg whites
1 c brown sugar

The recipe wants you to brown the nuts first. I have down that before, but I didn't have time this time around so I didn't do it. I don't know that there was a noticeable difference. If you choose to brown the nuts, put them on a baking sheet and bake for about 7-10 minutes at 350.

Meantime, put some foil (shiny side up) into a 9x13 pan and spray with non-stick spray.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar in a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Add butter. Pulse until the butter is the size of small peas. Add the egg yolks and vanilla and pulse until the mixture has the consistency of sandy clumps.

Put the mixture into the pan and press it in (I used my hands...they were clean). Press the nuts on top.

Now, you need to make the topping. Beat the egg whites until they peak. Add brown sugar and beat for 4 more minutes, at a high speed. Then spread on top of the stuff in the pan and bake for about 25 minutes at 350.

Of course, I fucked up the topping and put some brown sugar in at the beginning. I found that this makes them not "peak", no matter how long you leave it under the Kitchen Aid or how much you pray to the God of Egg Whites. So, I had to dig out some frozen egg whites from my freezer and thaw them under the hot water in the bath tub. (My sink was full). I found out that the Kitchen Aid will toss out frozen clumps of egg whites and it's quite a treat to catch them or scoop them up from the counter (it was clean). At any rate, I finally got the f'in egg whites to peak and then I put in the brown sugar and all was good.

Here is the picture of the food bloggers!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beer Chili

This time of year calls for chili (yes it is even cold in Mexico City) and what could be better than chili with beer in it, right Patty?

Beer Chili to keep you warm:

2 thick slices nice smoky bacon, cut into cubes
1 medium onion, chopped
16 ounces lean beef
minced garlic, 2 cloves
1 bottle beer
15 oz can stewed tomatoes with juice, break the tomatoes up with a spoon (or your by squeezing with your hand)
1 teaspoon cumin
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon smoked chipotle powder
1 teaspoon cheyenne (if you like it hot)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
can black beans drained and rinsed (or what ever bean you like)

Brown bacon in a deep pot, once brown add in the onions and cover and let cook over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. add into the pot the garlic and ground meat and let it brown. Once the meat is brown add in the been and cook until it evaporates and the meat is really cooked down, about 10 minutes. add in the rest of the ingredients except the beans, cover and cook for about 30 minutes. add the beans and cook for another 5 minutes.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Apple Bacon Roast Chicken

It’s finally cool enough that firing up the oven actually sounds appealing…especially if, after a while, a tasty roast chicken just happens to come out of said oven. I also had a couple of roaster chickens knocking around in my fridge so I set out to find an interesting roast chicken recipe. Among several intriguing choices, this one caught my eye because not only did I have all the ingredients at home already but one of the ingredients was bacon. Bacon that you covered the whole bird in. This I had to try.

My husband isn’t one for the sweet and meat pairing so I used the Recipezaar recipe more as inspiration than as tried and true directions. However, I bet maple syrup glazed, bacon coated, apple cooked chicken would be absolutely fantastic. One of these days when my husband is out of town I just may make Maple Bacon Chicken as written but for now, here’s my inspired but different Apple Bacon Roast Chicken.

1 roaster chicken (4lbs-ish)
1 apple
1 lb bacon
2 potatoes
1 handful of baby carrots or 2 sliced regular sized carrots
2 onions
black pepper
Cayenne pepper
1T oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Lightly grease the bottom of a chicken roaster with oil just to keep the veggies from sticking. Slice the potatoes and onions into the bottom of the pan. Add the baby carrots/big carrots.

Wash the chicken and remove the giblets plus any excess fat. Salt and pepper the top, bottom and cavity of the chicken. Peel and quarter an apple and put it in the cavity. Place the chicken in the roaster, breast side up. Cover the top with the bacon. Cover the roasting pan and cook for 1.25 to 2 hours, depending on the size of the bird.

Production Notes
First of all this was one delicious bird, although I wish the apple and bacon flavor had come out more strongly in the meat. I expect that the maple syrup glaze might help somewhat to flavor the chicken with bacon and apple. The veggies, on the other hand, tasted of apples, bacon and awesome even if they were a bit greasy. Quite a bit greasy actually but it was totally worth it. Yum.

We were a little perplexed as to what to do with the bacon once the bird came out of the oven. It looks pretty but is a little impractical once you get down to carving. We wound up pulling the bacon off and piling it on one side and then serving a couple strips with a cut of meat and some veggies. Ultimately, cutting the bacon up with pieces of chicken worked the best and I’ll bet that changing up strips of bacon for chopped bits would solve the bacon conundrum. A sort of bacon encrusted roasted chicken if you will.