Monday, January 21, 2013

The Best Apple Pie (You'll Ever Have)

The Best Apple Pie (You'll Ever Have)

Imagine with me a world where he or she has been missing for awhile. How do they re-arrive? Well, musical artists come roaring back to the stage with an update to their style, creating a self-applied relevancy to their music. Athletes come running back onto the field with an urgency, taking it upon themselves to put their team at the pinnacle of success. Sometimes they reach that high note. (See: Madonna) Sometimes they fumble. (See: Favre) And sometimes it remains to be seen. (See: Confabulation in the Kitchen)

The Best Apple Pie (You'll Ever Have)

I could bring to the table a recipe of invention and individuality, in which I showcase the Next Big Thing. Or I could sneak in without letting the screen door slam and leave on your counter a pie that will tickle your taste buds and maybe take you back to that place you've been missing, be it your grandmother's kitchen or your parents' patio. To be honest, that's all I really want. I want to be a back-door friend, one who doesn't have to knock. I want to be a dependable friend, one who brings you apple pie when you're happy or when you're sad. Mostly I want to be that friend who shares recipes with you over a cup of coffee, recipes that you can count on to nourish your family and not break the bank. That's what I was before, I hope. Won't you invite me in for another chat?

The Best Apple Pie (You'll Ever Have)

I've made this pie many times over the last, oh, 15 years or so. It's my favorite apple pie recipe because it tastes like what you've always loved when it comes to apple pie, but it's a bit more special. It's good for family. It's good for company. It's just good, and there isn't really anything I'd change about it. It's messy. It's sweet. It's lovely. So to give credit where credit is due: Go check out Kendra's Apple Pie!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

First, let's all take a moment to let my mom have a good, long laugh. You see, I hate green beans, truth be told. Well, what I actually hate is Southern green beans, especially the kind canned at home. They really aren't green after canning. And they hardly taste like beans. They're mush. Yes. I'm 5 years old (still). My parents always made me eat one spoon full of beans at dinner, so I'd shove every single one onto my fork and take one big bite, choking them down and whining about it all the while.

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

But I'm not 5 any more. (I bet you already knew that.) And now that I can cook for myself I do actually eat beans. I roast and sprinkle them with kosher salt. I saute them in garlic and olive oil and sprinkle them with toasted almonds. And I pile them on my plate at the Chinese buffet ... the exact reason I was attracted to this recipe. I don't know what's in the sauce at the buffet, but I do know what's in this sauce, and it's good stuff. These beans are perfect with chicken and rice, but they'd sit beautifully beside roast pork or a nice juicy steak, too. And if you're not into the whole meat thing just add some carrots and red pepper and serve over rice. Perfection.

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans

Where am I getting fresh green beans in the middle of winter? My freezer. My dad grew these beans over the summer, and I have just a couple of bags left now. What a treat to have something wholesome, fresh, and bright green when the world outside is cold, gray, and damp. When summer rolls around I highly recommend you pick beans at your neighbors' house (they keep begging you to pick some off their ever-producing vines, anyway, right?) or head to the farmers market and get some beans to freeze for yourself. A foodsaver is worth its weight in gold, I tell you what.

Sweet and Spicy Green Beans
Adapted from Allrecipes
Makes 4 servings

If you decide to add vegetables to your beans to make a vegetarian meal you might want to double - or even triple - your amount of sauce.

Ingredients
3/4 pound fresh or frozen green beans
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon chili sauce
1 teaspoon honey
2 teaspoons olive oil

Directions
1. Bring large pot of water to a boil. Steam beans 3 to 4 minutes. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, combine garlic, soy sauce, chili sauce and honey.
3. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add beans and saute, stirring, 3 to 4 minutes. Pour sauce over beans and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, stirring, until liquid is mostly cooked away. Serve hot.

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Thursday, January 12, 2012

(Chocolate) Marshmallow Surprise Cookies

Marshmallow Surprise! Cookies

Are you like me? Do you dislike surprises? I've never had a surprise birthday party. (In fact, I won't even go out to eat on my birthday for fear of a surprise serenade.) I found out the gender of both my babies as soon as possible. And - even though I think this would actually be fun - I've never just climbed in the car and said, "Let's go!" without having a plan in mind.

It's not that I'm a party pooper. And it's not that I'm scared of the unknown. It's that I like to plan. I like to know what to expect. And I like to fine-tune the details. So while these cookies weren't a surprise to me they were a surprise to the friends and family I fed them to.

So, okay. Even I can admit that biting into a chewy, chocolate cookie and discovering a fluffy, sugary marshmallow is hiding under all of that smooth, creamy frosting isn't such a bad surprise. It's even one I could appreciate. And since these cookies disappeared before I could eat my fair share I'll be glad to welcome a surprise visitor at my door with a fresh batch - just for me!

Marshmallow Surprise Cookies

(Chocolate) Marshmallow Surprise Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Makes 20 to 24 cookies

Remember when I said I like to fine-tune the details? These cookies let me do that. There are obviously a few steps involved: making the dough, chilling the dough, browning the marshmallows, letting the cookies cool, making the frosting.... I think you get my drift. So all that being said, don't start these at 7 on a Wednesday night. Because while your co-workers may appreciate them the next day, you'll wish you had left this fun task to a lazy Saturday afternoon, instead! (But don't let that scare you away. These are very delicious cookies!)

Ingredients
1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
12 large marshmallows, cut in half

Recipe for frosting (Looking for a shortcut? Canned frosting will work in a pinch, but you won't be able to stack the cookies unless you use a frosting that hardens a bit.)

Directions
1. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
2. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until well mixed. Add dry ingredients, and or up to overnight.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
5. Remove dough from fridge. Drop tablespoons of dough onto sheets, about 2 inches apart. Bake 10 to 12 minutes, or until cookies spread a bit and are firm to the touch.
6. Remove cookie sheets, and top each cookie with half a marshmallow. Return cookies to oven and bake about 2 minutes more, just until marshmallows start to melt.
7. Remove cookie sheets, place cookies on wire racks, and let them cookies cool completely. When they're completely cool - and they must be so that your frosting doesn't melt - spread top of cookies with chocolate frosting, being sure to completely cover marshmallows.
8. Store in an airtight container, and remember not to stack your cookies unless the frosting you use allows you to do so.

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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Mashed Potato Pancakes

Ah, New Year's resolutions. Do you make them? Good for you. In a word for me? No. I'm not much of a goal-setter, truth be told. What am I? I'm an all good things come to those who wait kind of gal. I'm a think-it-through-er most of the time, but the older I get I'm also a just-go-for-it ... er. Apparently I'm also a maker up of words. And that being said, with two kids, and a job, and this wonderful yet hectic thing called life I'm quickly becoming a make-it-up-as-I-go-along ... er. (There I go again!)

Yeah, so I'm making things up as I go along. Just like this post. Let's be honest. This post doesn't have much point, except to tell you that I am quickly becoming a complete waste-not-want-not cook-er. (Just kidding. But parallel structure and all that jazz, right?) I'm a cook who brought home a rotisserie chicken one night (legs for Brad, wings for me) and turned the leftovers into chicken salad the next day. A cook who turned that chicken carcass into chicken broth (after said carcass took a stint in the deep-freeze). A cook who brought carrots and celery home from the wings joint, and turned them into a base for soup the next day (using said broth). A cook who peeled too many potatoes for that soup and turned them into mashed potatoes the next day. And I'm a cook who used those leftover mashed potatoes to make mashed-potato pancakes for a lazy Sunday brunch.

What kind of cook are you?

Mashed Potato Pancakes

There's really no recipe to share, here. I just did what I watched my grandmother do time after time. Take cold mashed potatoes - they have to be really cold and solid - and turn them into patties. Size doesn't matter, but do try to make them all the same thickness so they cook at the same time. Dust patties with all-purpose flour. And fry them in a few tablespoons of whatever fat you have on hand. Olive oil, bacon grease, chicken fat ... it will work! Et bon appetit pour vous!

How do you use leftovers?

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Monday, November 07, 2011

Lemon-Yogurt Cake

Lemon-Yogurt Cake

I'm feeling a bit under the weather this week so I need lots of citrus. Lemon-yogurt cake counts, right? And for an extra shot of Vitamin C a bit of lemon glaze is just the thing. OK. I'm trying too hard to justify eating a piece of cake. You know, we shouldn't ever feel like we need an excuse to enjoy a bite of food. I'll be the first to admit that it's a hard attitude adjustment to make, and I hadn't really thought of it that way until recently. Brad and I went to hear Anthony Bourdain speak, and he brought Eric Ripert along with him. They did an interview-style gig at the beginning of the show, and when Anthony asked Eric what his guilty pleasure is Eric responded that he has never felt guilty about eating. Anything. You could feel the audience react to his words. I'm not sure it's a common attitude in France (where Eric is from), but it definitely made an impression on me. So all of that being said I'm heading to the kitchen for another ... bite ... of cake. It's made with yogurt so it can't be all bad, right?

Lemon-Yogurt Cake

Lemon Yogurt Cake
Adapted from Ina Garten
Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plain yogurt
1 1/3 cups sugar, divided
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup lemon juice

Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare loaf pan with nonstick baking spray, or with butter and parchment paper. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, whisk yogurt, 1 cup sugar, eggs, zest and vanilla. Incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, a bit at a time. Fold in vegetable oil.
3. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 45 to 50 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean.
4. While cake is baking, cook 1/3 cup lemon juice and 1/3 cup sugar in a pan over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is clear. Set aside and let cool slightly.
5. When cake is done let it cool 5 to 10 minutes in the pan. Then remove loaf and place on baking rack over a cookie sheet or wax paper. Using cake tester or toothpick, punch holes all over top of cake. Slowly pour lemon-sugar mixture over cake and let it soak in as cake cools.
6. Meanwhile, to make glaze, combine powdered sugar and lemon juice. Pour over cooled cake or over each slice as it's cake is served.

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