March 31, 2010

I love butter, therefore I love Paula Deen

Paula Deen uses a lot of butter, this is a well known fact. Tonight I made her pie crust and I didn't f**k it up, I think it's because there was a lot of butter in it. The last time I had a homemade pie crust come out I think I was standing on a chair in the kitchen playing with dough while my mom rolled it out (just like Molly did tonight).

I almost go so far as to say that this crust recipe might be fool-proof. But I think the key is to NOT over-work it. I used my hands, added the ice water (for sure closer to the 1/2 cup if not more) and wrapped it up. There were still visible chunks of butter in the dough. I learned a while back that the pockets made by layers of butter between flour are what make the flakiness, so I was not afraid that there were big pieces of butter I didn't crumble down.

It's also KEY to let it rest and chill in the frig. They allows the gluten to do it's magic.

Here is the Apple Rhubarb Pie with nice flaky crust, so easy!

(My mom used to always make "snails" with cinnamon sugar from the leftover crust, I do too.)

Straight from Food Network's Paula Deen, Queen of Butter:


  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable shortening, cold
  • 12 tablespoons butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup ice water


In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, salt and sugar. Add the shortening and break it up with your hands as you start to coat it all up with the flour. Add the cold butter cubes and work it into the flour with your hands or a pastry cutter. Work it quickly, so the butter doesn't get too soft, until the mixture is crumbly, like very coarse cornmeal. Add the ice water, a little at a time, until the mixture comes together forming a dough. Bring the dough together into a ball. 

When it comes together stop working it otherwise the dough will get over-worked and tough. Divide the dough in half and flatten it slightly to form a disk shape. Wrap each disk in plastic and chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. On a floured surface roll each disk out into a 10 to 11-inch circle to make a 9-inch pie.

March 28, 2010

Dark Chocolate Frosting

I have to admit I'm a little disappointed with the Martha Stewart's Cupcakes cookbook. I've only tried two recipes, but the results have been merely mediocre. I'm a huge fan of her Cookies cookbook, from which I've probably made 20 different cookies that all came out fantastically, so I had high expectations.  I thought Martha was like the gold standard for these types of things...

Maybe it's me. Maybe I don't love cupcakes as much as I love cookies. I don't know. But, so far, the only thing that has impressed me about the Cupcakes book has been this frosting recipe. I LOVE cream cheese frosting, and you know butter cream is ok, but I've never come across a frosting recipe like this. Cocoa powder AND tons of melted chocolate (ok, lots of butter, too.) But I like the idea of a melted-chocolate-based frosting. It tastes just like you'd think it would--very chocolate-y. It is definitely important to use your favorite high quality chocolate here.

I halved the following recipe when I made my chocolate mint cupcakes, because this will give you 5 cups of frosting. Which is fine---if you are feeding a small army. I also added pure mint extract as I was mixing in the chocolates at the end. I'd imagine any other complimentary flavor would work well here, too. Coconut? Almond? Mmmm. I haven't completely given up on Martha's cupcakes. Yet. I'm willing to give the Cookies and Cream Cheesecake cupcakes a try.

Dark Chocolate Frosting
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon boiling water
  • 2 1/4 cups unsalted butter (4 1/2 sticks), room temperature
  • 3/4 cup powered sugar, sifted
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 pounds best-quality semi-sweet chocolate, finely chopped (or use chips)
  1. Place chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pan of simmering water. Do not let any of the water touch the bottom of the bowl. Heat until chocolate is almost melted, then stir with a spatula until it is completely melted. Remove bowl from pan and let cool, stirring occasionally. Wait 30 minutes before using. 
  2. Meanwhile, boil water. In a small bowl, combine cocoa and boiling water, stirring until the cocoa has dissolved. 
  3. With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, mix butter, sugar and salt until pale and fluffy. Reduce speed to low and add melted and cooled chocolate. Beat until combined. Beat in cocoa mixture and any extracts.
*If not using immediately, frosting can be refrigerated up to 5 day, or frozen up to 1 month. Before using again, bring to room temp. then beat on low until smooth.
Yield: 5 cups

Not So Intimidating French Onion Soup

I wanted French Onion Soup today and finally decided to do it. John loves this soup and I've known it is his favorite for over seven and a half years. Still, tonight was the first time I made it.

Recipe for Two servings

2 Large Yellow onions, quartered and sliced thinly
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Bay leaf
3 cloves of roasted garlic, chopped fine
1/2 Cup dry sherry
1/4 Cup red wine
1/2 Teaspoon thyme
6-8 Cups beef and vegetable broth blended, 1 cup reserved
2 Tablespoons flour, sifted
Salt and pepper to taste
Sliced French baguette
Sliced Gruyere cheese, thinly

In a large pot or pan, melt butter and add onions and bay leaf. Cook on medium-low for a long time (30+ minutes). Keep cooking them until they are brown in color but NOT burnt. It is really important to keep the heat down as the onions could burn. If you accidentally get a few over cooked onions that look a little blackened pull them out. You should not go far and stir them often. Add garlic right at the end of this step and cook for about 1 minute.

When onions are all caramelized and brown, deglaze the pan with the sherry and red wine. Cook uncovered for about 5-7 minutes. Add broth, reserving 1 cup, and thyme. Bring soup to a boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes uncovered. Remove the bay leaf.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the reserved stock and sifted flour until the flour is incorporated without lumps. Add to the soup and cook for another 5 minutes, covered. Adjust the consistency of the soup to your liking with more broth or more flour.

Season with salt and pepper.

Slice a French baguette into 3/4 inch slices and toast. Ladle soup into heat-proof bowls, place a piece of toast on each bowl of soup and cover with a thin layer of Gruyere cheese. Place on a pan and broil until the cheese is bubbly and just starting to brown.

Oh, it is so good! Enjoy!

March 27, 2010

You have to try this, tomorrow!

I don't have pictures, but you can use your imagination for this one.

Cut some bacon into smallish pieces, cook in a pan until crispy and then drain on some paper towels. When cooled, chop finer.

Add 1 teaspoon of yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1/2 cup warm water (105 degrees), let it sit to activate and get frothy.

In a large bowl, sift:
1 cup corn meal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Separate three eggs and whisk the whites until they form stiff peaks. Set aside.

Add yeasty water, about 1 cup of buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of melted butter and egg yolks to the dry ingredients, mix. Fold in the egg whites gently. Cover and set aside for up to an hour to rise.

Heat your waffle iron, spray with oil, put in a scoop of batter, sprinkle with chopped bacon and cook.

These are great served with a little butter and maple syrup.


March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Goodness

I was watching the Food Network last week and got inspired to make something Irishy for the 17th.  This is what I made, adapted from Bobby Flay's Taste of Ireland show.

It's a rustic slab of ham, sauteed cabbage and creamy mashed potatoes!

It turns out I've never cooked a ham. My family just wasn't traditional-Americana that way. We did goose, duck, lamb or mussels for the holidays. We never ate a ham. But I bought a ham the other day. I really didn't know which one to get and I didn't think it would make that big of a difference because I didn't have high expectations for this meal (ham dinners have always been bland and boring to me).

I bought a smoked ham and brought it home. What made it's way into our mouths might be a new all time favorite meal.

-4 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced
-4 large cloves of garlic, peeled
-1 teaspoon rosemarry
-1 teaspoon olive oil
-sea salt
-4 oz cream cheese
-3 tablespoons of butter
-1/2 cup milk

Cover potatoes with water in a large pot and a good dash of salt. Boil until soft all the way through. While the potatoes are boiling, place garlic, olive oil, rosemary, pinch of salt in a foil pouch and bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes. When the potatoes are done, drain and place in a large bowl. Add roasted garlic and rosemary, cream cheese, butter and milk. Mash and mix until creamy but don't over mix. Cover and set aside.

-A big fat smoke cured ham on the bone.

I cut a big portion off and boiled it until the meat read 160 degrees in the fattest part. I cut off a big chunk of fat off the remaining ham and trimmed the smoked layer off so I had pork fat, pure and simple. I chopped the fat into little cubes and fried it. I did not really plan this, it just happened. But seriously, who wouldn't fry up the little bits when presented with the opportunity? After a few minutes they were all browned and crispy. I drained them and set them on a paper towel. So yummy!

When the ham meat was ready I removed the slab and sliced it up and put it back in the hot water to hold until I plated.

(I put the remaining ham in the oven to bake/roast for an hour at 350 degrees. I will cube most of it and freeze it for quiche and soups.)

-1/2 head of cabbage, sliced
-1/2 yellow onion
-2 Tablespoons of pork fat from the crispy bits of bacony goodness
-1 small splash of white wine
-1/3 cup cooking liquid from ham

In a large saute pan heat oil and caramelize onions slowly. Add cabbage, toss to coat with oil, add wine and liquid, cover and cook for 4-5 minutes. Toss cabbage around and make sure that it cooks evenly but serve it while it's a little al dente.

I put everything together and it was AMAZING!!!! But I think many things can be amazing when cooked with bacon fats and crispy bits.

I seasoned everything with salt and pepper as I went, but when we got to the table nothing more was needed.


March 13, 2010


Tacos al pastor (Guadalajara), a torta ahogada (Guadalajara), and guacamole and ceviche (Melaque): only a small representation of my favorite things to eat in Mexico.

March 8, 2010

My New Favorite Thing!

Seriously, who doesn't like going to a middle eastern restaurant and dipping hot flat breads into fresh hummus? Or wrapping up some savory meats in a soft, spongy piece of bread?

Recently we've restricted our budget to only eating at home. I hope it doesn't have to last forever since eating out is a great joy of mine. However a few positive things have come as a result that I did not expect:

1) I look forward to eating out less in the future. Yes, I said it. I'm looking forward to being more intentional and strategic about where I eat out. I want to try local ethnic restaurants to inspire me and meet new people. I don't want to eat out what I can make at home. I want to challenge myself to try other flavors.

2) Eating in for 40 days has forced me to make the things I crave. Before if I was craving hummus and flat bread, I would head out and order a mezza platter.

This all leads to me making a SUPER easy flat bread at home that saves for up to 4 days or can be frozen.

Homemade Flat Bread
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry active yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
  • More water as needed

Add yeast and sugar to warm water and set aside. In a mixer fitted with a dough hook add flour and salt, whisk together. When the yeasty water is frothy (about 3-5 minutes), add to the flour and turn to speed 2 or 4. Continue to add a little more water until the dough has pulled away from the sides. If it's too sticky add more flour. Once the dough is fully incorporated and looks soft, remove from mixer and place on floured surface. Kneed a few times to form a silky, elasticy ball. Place dough in a lightly oiled larger bowl and cover with plastic wrap or damp towel. It's best to make sure the dough was coated with oil on top too so a dry crust does not form. Let rise for 1-2 hours, punch down, form into a ball again and cover. Let rise for up to 3 hours longer.

Remove dough from bowl and kneed a few times. Portion dough into equally sized balls. The larger the ball the larger the flat bread. Somewhere between a golf ball and a racquetball. Let the balls rest for 10 minutes. Roll out until they are pretty thin.

Cook in a pan on medium high heat. Spray or brush both sides of the bread with a little bit of oil. When they are browned and bubbly they are ready to come off. Store on a plate with a clean kitchen towel to wrap them in.  Serve warm.
Store them in an ziplock bag up to four days. Heat on the stove top when ready to enjoy.

(PS - This is pretty much the same recipe I use for pizza dough or my pizza frita. It's very versatile.)

March 7, 2010

Coconut Stir Fry

Every week I schedule our dinners out in advance, shop accordingly and look forward to certain meals. I was excited to eat stir fry this week, but at 5pm last night I realized I didn't have my staples. No soy sauce, no sesame oil and no curry of any kind. What kind of stir fry could I make without these key flavors?

I searched around my pantry which has been pretty bare since we moved (I gave everything in our previous pantry to my sister). I found a can of coconut milk, some rice wine, rice vinegar and pepper jelly.

What came out was really delightful. Here it is:
(The ingredients that I used last night are in bold)

Protein, one of the following
-12+ shrimp
-2 sliced chicken breasts
-drained and cubed tofu

Chopped fine
-Garlic, 2 cloves
-Ginger, 2 Tb fresh

Chopped veggies, any of these work well
-Bell peppers, red

-Bok Choy

-Green onions, chopped
-Lemon Zest (lime would also work)

Sauce, whisk together
-1 cup coconut milk
-1/4 cup white wine or rice wine
-1-2 teaspoons rice vinegar
-2 tablespoons of pepper jelly
-Fresh ground pepper
-2 tablespoons Cornstarch

Heat a few tablespoons of peanut or canola oil in a wok until very hot. Add ginger and garlic. Before the garlic begins to brown, add protein and toss a few times until just cooked. Remove protein from pan and set aside.

Add veggies and toss a few times to ensure they are thoroughly coated with oil. Let cook for about 2 minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Add sauce and stir. When sauce is bubbling put the protein back in and add garnishes, cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from the heat and serve over rice while hot.

I've never really had pepper jelly before in foods. You usually find it over cream cheese served with crackers at a party. But I knew I needed something with a little bit more intrigue. It worked!

This would be awesome with some basil or red curry paste.

Here are pictures of Molly's dinner plate. This little girl doesn't know how good she has it! This is my attempt to get her to each the meal.

And this is with the peanut butter sandwich and banana wheels I had waiting for her in the kitchen. One day she'll eat all the delicious foods I make for her.

March 1, 2010

Flour Tortillas

After making the Chili posted the other day we had a lot of leftovers. I decided to turn it into a burrito filling with fresh made tortillas. They took a little bit of time, but it was easy and worth it!

Flour Tortillas:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1 cup warm water

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add shortening and work in with your hands or a pastry cutter. Add a little water at a time until you can form a soft dough that is not too sticky. Kneed for a few solid turns until everything is incorporated and smooth.

Cut dough into 12 or more little balls and set on a pan to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Roll each ball of dough into desired shape of tortilla, making sure they are very thin.

Cook on a hot pan long enough to lightly brown but not burn, flipping once. If the pan is too hot they will burn before they cook through.

As they come off the pan place them in a clean kitchen towel to keep them from drying out.

I made them on a griddle so I could cook 3 at a time. This worked but I think a pan would have been a little hotter. They got a little dry, but they were still AWESOME!