Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What's On the Side: Spanish Rice

I have fond memories of Rice a Roni Spanish rice from my childhood. When made with browned ground beef, it made for a quick and easy weeknight meal, something I'm sure my Mom appreciated.

While the Spanish rice recipe I'm sharing here is meant to be used as a side dish (I served it alongside a roasted chicken seasoned with cumin and cilantro), you could easily transform it into a hearty meal with the addition of ground beef, turkey, or soy crumbles.

Spanish Rice (printer-friendly version)
makes 4-6 servings

4 cups low-sodium vegetable stock
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes fire roasted with green chilies
pinch of dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups white rice
1 scant cup finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced

1. Add the vegetable stock, fire roasted tomatoes, oregano, and salt to a large sauce pot. Bring to a simmer over low heat.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir to coat in the oil. Cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is browned, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped onion and cook until the onion has softened and turn translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and carefully add to the tomato mixture in the sauce pot. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is evenly cooked through. Remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.

(adapted from this Simply Recipes recipe)

Monday, May 18, 2015

What I'm Bringing to the Party: Bruschetta with Whipped Feta and Fresh Tomatoes

Given that Memorial Day is only a week away, summer is just around the corner. And as the days warm up, our social calendar is heating up, too. And of course no get-together would be complete without plenty of food.

One downside of having a food blog is that when I bring something to the party, the expectations tend to be pretty high. So, while I might secretly want to grab a bag of tortilla chips and a container of pico de gallo to share (you know, one tiny step above the jarred stuff), instead, I find myself poring through recipes looking for the perfect thing to bring to the party.

I found this recipe for bruschetta with whipped feta on a recent re-run of Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. Of course Ina Garten always has the perfect party-ready recipe! I think this bruschetta is going to be even better later in the summer when local heirloom tomatoes are in season.

Bruschetta with Whipped Feta and Fresh Tomatoes (printer-friendly version)
makes 10+ servings

For the whipped feta:
6 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
2 ounces cream (or Neuchâtel) cheese, softened
1/3 cup olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt 
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the tomatoes:
2 tablespoons minced shallots (1 large shallot)
2 teaspoons minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 pints grape tomatoes, halved or quartered

20-25 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal baguette slices, brushed with olive oil and toasted
3 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves, for garnish
1. To make the whipped feta, add the feta and cream cheeses to the bowl of a food processor with the blade attached. Process until combined. Add in the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper and process until smooth. 
2. To make the tomato topping, add the minced shallots and garlic to a shallow bowl. Top with the red wine vinegar and let stand for five minutes. Then stir in the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the halved grape tomatoes. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
3. To assemble the bruschetta, add a generous schmear of whipped feta to each baguette slice. Then top with the tomato mixture. Garnish with fresh basil and serve.

(adapted from this Barefoot Contessa recipe)

Monday, May 11, 2015

What's Baking: Coconut Cupcakes

I could totally use a cupcake break right around now. Alas, I brought the latest batch to a get-together over the weekend, and they were all gobbled down. (The 3-year-olds in the crowd were particular fans.) I guess that's a sign that they were good cupcakes, eh?

This past weekend marks the second time I've made these coconut cupcakes for a get-together. I've now made them in both the standard size (pictured here) and as minis, and both versions were well-received. You can't go wrong with a cupcake, really, particularly when it has a giant mount of frosting on top. 

These cupcakes get their coconut flavor from a variety of sources including shredded coconut and coconut milk in the batter and toasted coconut chips added as a final garnish. The frosting is your standard vanilla buttercream; if you're feeling particularly decadent, add in a quarter teaspoon of vanilla beans for a little extra vanilla flavor.

Coconut Cupcakes (printer-friendly version)
makes 12 standard cupcakes or 24 mini cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut (unsweetened is okay)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, at room temperature
1 egg white, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk, well shaken or stirred ("lite" is okay)

For the frosting:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup coconut chips, toasted

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and shredded coconut.
3. Add the butter and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. Cream on medium-high heat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the egg, egg white, and vanilla extract.
4. At low speed, add in the dry ingredients in batches, alternating with the coconut milk, and finishing with the addition of the last of the flour mixture. Stir until just combined.
5. Use a small scoop to divide the batter evenly among the lined cups. Bake in the oven for 18-20 (or 15 minutes for mini cupcakes), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
6. Carefully remove the cupcakes from the tin and set on a wire rack to cool completely.
7. While the cupcakes are cooling, make the frosting. Add the butter to the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the sifted powdered sugar in 1/4-cup increments, beating to combine at medium speed, then beating at high speed for 10 seconds to aerate the frosting. Add in the vanilla extract and beat to combine.
8. Use an offset spatula to frost the cupcakes. Top with toasted coconut chips. Any leftover cupcakes can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to three days. But they probably won't last that long!

(adapted from these recipes from Brown Eyed Baker and Martha Stewart)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What's For Dessert: Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie

I am a terrible blogger. If I was a good blogger, I would have posted this recipe for chocolate pecan bourbon pie sometime last week, so you could make it in time to celebrate the Kentucky Derby. But, I didn't. Instead, I baked this pie on Saturday afternoon right before the big race. (A race that, if we're being real, I watch solely as an excuse to drink mint juleps.)

Or, if I was a good blogger, I would hold onto this recipe for a year, and then post it right before the 2016 race. But, honestly, this pie is too good to not share now. And, well, technically, as you can see from its name, you aren't even allowed to call it derby pie. So, let's instead enjoy this delicious chocolate pecan bourbon pie any day of the year. It is ooey, gooey, and full of crunchy pecans and melted chocolate. And, well, as the name implies, there's a little kick of bourbon, too.

Do you serve pecan pie at your holiday functions? I highly recommend you save this recipe for later and bring it out for Thanksgiving. Your friends and family will thank you for it. Wait, maybe I am a good blogger . . . look at me, already sharing recipes for your Thanksgiving feast! You're welcome in advance.

Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie (printer-friendly version)
makes 8 servings

For the crust:
1 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1/3 cup cold buttermilk

For the pie filling:
3 large eggs
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup (200g) dark corn syrup (light corn syrup or golden syrup would also work)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons bourbon
1 2/3 cups toasted pecans, very coarsely chopped
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips

1. Make the crust: in a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt. Add the (cold!) butter cubes and use your fingers to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture. The mixture will have large pea-sized pieces and flaky oat-like butter pieces. Make a well in the center and pour in the cold buttermilk. Use a fork to bring the dough together. If the dough is not coming together, add in a little more buttermilk, one tablespoon at a time. The dough will be very shaggy.
2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough into a small disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.
3. After the dough has chilled, unwrap it and place on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to 1/8-inch thick and about 12 inches in diameter. Transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie pan. Trim the dough around the edges so it only slightly overlaps the edge. Then fold the edges under and crimp with your fingers or a fork. Return the crust to the refrigerator and chill for at least 30 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make the pie filling: in a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, brown sugar, dark corn syrup, vanilla, salt, melted butter, and bourbon. Stir in the chopped pecans and chocolate chips. 
5. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the filling into the prepared pie crust. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and no longer jiggles excessively when lightly shaken. Let cool completely before serving.

(adapted from these recipes from David Lebovitz and Joy the Baker)

Monday, May 4, 2015

What's For Breakfast: The Best Buttermilk Pancakes

Me and pancakes go way, way back. Pancakes were almost always on the Saturday morning menu at our house. With Car Talk in the background, my Dad made the batter and manned the spatula for flipping duty, though I would hop in to make a batch of my favorite silver-dollar-sized pancakes before all the batter was gone.

So many years later, and pancakes are still one of my favorite breakfast treats. Although, given our busy weekends, we eat pancakes more often for dinner than for breakfast. But, when a lazy weekend morning beckons, I like to put pancakes on the menu. And when I have buttermilk in the fridge, it's buttermilk pancakes all the way. I've tried a bunch of recipes in the past, and this recipe, which hails from the blog oh, sweet basil definitely is at the top of the list. And no, you don't need to adjust your screen -- our pancakes are typically that yellow. Gotta love fresh eggs from our chickens -- their orange yolks are amazing.

The Best Buttermilk Pancakes (printer-friendly version)
makes 12+ pancakes

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 cups low-fat buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for the skillet

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and sugar.
2. In a separate bowl, stir together the eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.
3. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, pour in the wet ingredients, and whisk until just combined. Then stir in the melted butter. Do not over stir!
4. Melt the butter in an electric skillet heated to 350 degrees. Add about 1/3 cup of batter in rounds to the skillet. Flip when the pancakes when bubbles form and the batter looks matte in appearance. Cook for an additional minute or two. Serve immediately or keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.

(adapted from this oh, sweet basil recipe)

Friday, May 1, 2015

What's For Breakfast: Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pecans

This baked oatmeal is my new favorite breakfast. And since this recipe makes a large number of servings, after putting in the work on day one, the rest of the week all you need to do is reheat it and breakfast is ready to go.

Last summer we picked a huge box of blueberries from Blue Vista Farm in Bayfield, Wisconsin and the majority of the berries found their way into the freezer. For this recipe, I used thawed blueberries, but you could also use fresh or still-frozen berries.

I find that a good breakfast can really set the tone for the day -- and the heartier, the better. There's nothing worse than eating breakfast and then feeling hungry less than an hour later (I'm looking at you, bowl of cereal.)

And with wholesome ingredients like oatmeal and blueberries, this breakfast also gets top grades for healthiness. But most importantly, it's quite delicious, too.

Baked Oatmeal with Blueberries and Pecans (printer-friendly version)
makes 6-8 servings

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup pecan halves, chopped
1/4 cup coconut chips
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk ("lite" or regular)
1 1/3 cups 1% percent milk
1/3 cup maple syrup
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
dash of ground nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, chopped pecans, coconut chips, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Add the oat mixture to bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish or 10-inch cast iron skillet. Scatter the blueberries evenly over top the oat mixture.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, 1% milk, maple syrup, egg, and vanilla. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the melted better.
4. Pour the milk mixture over top the oat mixture, ensuring that it is covered evenly. Sprinkle with a dash of ground nutmeg.
5. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, or until the oatmeal is set and it is golden in color. Let cool slightly then drizzle with the remaining 1 tablespoon of melted better. Serve immediately.

(adapted from this Orangette recipe, which was adapted from a recipe in the cookbook Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson)

Thursday, April 30, 2015

What's On the Side: Potatoes Anna

Potatoes Anna is a classic French dish composed of thinly sliced potatoes cooked in beaucoup de melted butter. Not surprisingly, it is delicious.

I had plans to make salmon for dinner the other night, and wanted to make some sort of potato dish on the side. I tend to make mashed potatoes, but was looking to try something new. The major selling point of this recipe from Martha Stewart is that it can be made up to 8 hours in advance and reheated just before serving. This meant I could take one item off my to-do list when it came time to cook dinner that night.

Though the presentation is quite elegant, the recipe itself is rather simple. All it takes is a couple of sliced potatoes, some melted butter, a little seasoning, and voilĂ --you have a stunning dish for your dinner table.

Potatoes Anna (printer-friendly version)
makes 2-4 servings

2 medium russet potatoes, peeled
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
coarse sea salt
freshly ground pepper
herbes de Provence
fresh thyme leaves, for garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Using the slicing blade on your food processor or a very sharp knife, slice the potatoes about 1/4-inch thick.
2. Add 1 tablespoon of melted butter to a 8-inch cast iron skillet and brush to cover the bottom.
3. Beginning in the center of the skillet, arrange the potato slices in a circular pattern to cover the bottom of the skillet. The slices should overlap slightly. Brush with melted butter, season generously with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with a small pinch of herbes de Provence. Repeat for at least two more layers.
4. Place the skillet over high heat and cook until the butter begins to sizzle, about 1-3 minutes.
5. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake until the potatoes are fork-tender. This should take about 60 minutes, but check after 45. Remove from the oven.
6. Serve in the skillet, or use a large spatula to loosen the potatoes from the skillet, then flip onto a serving plate. Garnish with fresh thyme before serving.
7. Alternately, potatoes can be made in advance, allowed to cool, then covered with aluminum foil and refrigerated. To serve, reheat in a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.

(adapted from this Martha Stewart recipe)
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