June 26, 2009

chow on chow-chow

Have you heard of chow-chow? If you're on a pickle kick even remotely as extreme as the one I'm currently experiencing, you need to familiarize yourself with it.


Apparently, chow-chow is a unique type of relish well-suited for topping a bowl of pinto beans, hot dogs, and a variety of other foods. More importantly, it has a great name. If you like pickled shtuff, you should give her a go.


Chow-Chow
2 quarts shredded cabbage, about one medium head
1/2 cup sweet onions, chopped fine
1/2 cup chopped green or red bell peppers
2 tablespoons salt

Combine chopped vegetables and sprinkle with salt. Let stand 4 to 6 hours in the refrigerator. Drain well.
Combine the following ingredients and simmer 10 minutes (using a pot large enough to put the vegetable mix in later):

2 cups vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 teaspoons mustard seed

Add vegetables to brine mixture and simmer another 10 minutes. Bring to a boil. Then pack, boiling hot, into clean, heated canning jars, leaving only an 1/8-inch headspace. Place canning lids and rings on jars and tighten. Turn the jars upside down so that all the heat is on the seals and let cool completely.

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June 23, 2009

a rare pair

It occurred to me recently (in the middle of the night, if you must know) that I've never eaten, seen, or created anything combining bananas and cranberries. (Another middle-of-the-night poser: Why do we have electrons, neutrons, and protons? Why not protrons?)(Yes, my mind is a scary place, and yes, I'm a science nerd.)


I've been looking for ways to incorporate thick, luscious Greek yogurt (all Oikos, all the time) into my baking, so when I had a few bananas reach the brink of liquefaction, I decided a banana bread was in order. Recalling my concern about the lack of banana-cranberry recipes, I felt that a healthy amount of the little red gems was an essential addition.


Nooks and crannies and cranberries, oh my!

The result? A moist, fragrant, bespeckled bread full of flavor and healthful benefits. So why haven't the sweet, ripe banana and tart, chewy cranberry ever been united in baked bliss? It seems like it should be a good match, and indeed it is.

Cranana Bread
(adapted from this recipe)

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 1/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
4 bananas, mashed
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan or a tray of mini-loaf molds.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Beat in the eggs, mashed bananas, yogurt, and vanilla. Mix in the cinnamon, salt, baking soda, and flours. Stir in the dried cranberries. Divide appropriately into prepared pan(s) and bake for 70 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

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June 19, 2009

two roads diverged in a wood, and I...

...I took the rocky road.


And that has made all the difference.*

*Two back-to-back literary references--my English-loving little brother must be so proud.

We're all familiar with the combination of ingredients in a dessert bearing the "rocky road" descriptor--chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts. [I think the components are a bit different (but just as tasty) in other countries.] There are cookies, cupcakes, ice creams, fudges, cheesecakes, pies, and even bread puddings. Me? I went with bars. Why? Because I'm lazy.


Instead of the brownie base seen in many rocky road bars, this recipe makes use of graham cracker crumbs. I used a blend of chocolate ones and regular ones to make the end result more cocoa-flavored; they also made the bars a bit reminiscent of s'mores, which could never be a bad thing. The nuts I went with were pecans (from the Green Valley Pecan Store, to be exact, which just so happens to provide the finest pecans I've had the pleasure of eating).


This is a quick, fool-proof, and tasty treat, and I'm glad I went down the rocky road.

The [Rocky] Road Not Taken Bars (did ya get all that?)
(adapted from this recipe)

1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, divided
1 1/2 cups pecans, divided
2 cups mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and melted butter in an 8x8-inch dish. Toss to thoroughly combine and press mixture firmly onto the bottom of the pan. Scatter (or painstakingly layer) 1 cup of the pecans across the top and bake for 15 minutes.
After baking, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle with 1 cup of the chocolate chips, the marshmallows, the remaining pecans, and then the remaining chocolate chips. Return the pan to the oven and bake 10-12 minutes, or until marshmallows are lightly browned.

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June 16, 2009

pudd'nhead

My respect for the Amish has just risen, and it's all due to an idea that may or may not have even started with them.


I know you've heard of Amish Friendship Bread, the chain letter of the baking world. Although I don't have the actual starter used for such breads, I do have Eb, and he hasn't let me down yet.

The most exciting thing for me about this notion of Amish Friendship Bread isn't the fact that you're supposed to pass some starter on to friends and neighbors. Nope, what thrills and interests me is the fact that pudding mix is involved in the recipe.

Does it add moistness or bulk, or is it merely there for a little extra flavor? After one go-round, my theory is that it's there for all of the above reasons. The bread is definitely moist and dense, more so than what I usually find in my sourdough breads. Further, the flavor provided by the pudding mix (coconut cream, in this fabulous case) was the best part of the final product as far as I'm concerned.


Good googa mooga...literally.

Heck, just think of the variations here! This time, I used coconut cream pudding, macadamia nuts, and white chocolate chips. Next time, I'd like to try butterscotch pudding with toffee bits and dark chocolate. There's banana cream pudding, oreo pudding, pistachio pudding, lemon pudding, white chocolate pudding, cheesecake pudding. So many nuts, so many baking chips, so many possibilities. Just thrilling.

This particular version was amazing--it disappeared so quickly at work that for a moment, I was afraid someone had just gone ahead and dumped it all in the trash (what can I say, that's the way my mind works). The macadamias provided a nice salty crunch, and the white chocolate chips were there for a pleasant burst of sweetness. As I'm a big fan of coconut (not only eating it, but also smelling like it--I consider it a wonderful incentive to wear sunscreen), the fact that its subtle but distinct flavor permeated the loaf was the best part for me.

Say...do the Amish even use store-bought pudding mixes?

Tropical Friendship Bread
(personalized from this recipe)

1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup applesauce (I used
Beech-nut Homestyle Cinnamon, Raisins & Pears)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup
sourdough starter
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 (3.4 oz) boxes instant coconut cream pudding
1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325F. Grease down whatever molds you intend to use (I filled up 8 mini loaves).
In a large bowl, mix the oil, applesauce, eggs, milk, starter, vanilla, and sugar.
In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, pudding mix, nuts, and chips. Add this to the liquid mixture and stir thoroughly.
Pour the batter into the prepared pans and bake until done. Apparently, this takes at least an hour for regular loaves, and took around 45 minutes for my mini loaves. Cool completely before slicing.

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June 12, 2009

beaucoup* beans

*and with that, I exhaust my knowledge of the French language...


The only thing I enjoy more than beans is spicy beans, and that's what I recently made for our office potluck.

I always like to take something I know I'll enjoy just in case everything else being offered can also be found on a supermarket shelf (which is sadly what happens more often than not).

This recipe from Susan of Food Blogga caught my eye when she posted it almost a year ago, and I finally got around to trying it myself. With a few personalizing tweaks, it was everything I hoped it would be. I used my homemade barbecue sauce and I added waaaaay more cilantro, tomatoes, and some jalapenos for extra heat. The result is a bright, fresh, filling, and fiery mix of flavors and textures, and I loved it.

Barbecue Bean Salad
(adapted from this recipe)

3 ears sweet corn, kernels removed from the cob
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup pickled jalapenos, chopped
1 (14.5 oz) can black beans, rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can red kidney beans, rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can chick peas, rinsed
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes with chiles, drained
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup
barbecue sauce

Saute the corn until lightly browned, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat, and add to a large bowl. Add the green and jalapeno peppers, rinsed beans, drained tomatoes, and barbecue sauce; stir until well combined. Gently stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasonings if necessary. Serve at room temperature or slightly chilled, though it tastes better if it's allowed to marinate for at least a couple of hours.

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June 9, 2009

i put it off as long as i could

I resisted making the snickerdoodle blondies that've been spreading like wildfire in the Land of Food Blogs for quite some time because I knew they'd be addictive and I knew I'd never look at normal blondies the same way again.


I was right. Regular blondies are worthless to me now.

Where do I begin? Let's start with what these bars are like before they're even baked. I'm not gonna deny that chocolate chip cookie dough isn't good, but it truly pales in comparison to this raw batter. It's seriously tasty.

Secondly, I need to tell you about the aroma. As you know if you've ever stopped by this blog even once before, I'm addicted to cinnamon. I defy any among you to tell me that you don't enjoy the smell that wafts out of the oven as anything involving cinnamon bakes. It's undeniably swoon-worthy, and these bars are no exception. Even as I was cutting them, the scent worked its way into my nose and I more than once felt the urge to pause and have a bite.


Finally, the ultimate test--the flavor. As far as I'm concerned, the taste of these bars is supreme. The texture is right, the cinnamon dosage is perfect, the cinnamon chips are a welcome addition, and the cinnamon sugar is the icing on the cake (or the dusting on the bars, as the case may be).

The moral of this story--as long as I'm baking just for myself, another blondie recipe will never again be necessary. This one wins.

Cinnamon Lover's Snickerdoodle Blondies
(the recipe is everywhere, but I worked from Maria's)

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup brown sugar, tightly packed
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 egg, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cinnamon chips
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray down an 8x8-inch pan. Mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar; beat in the egg and vanilla until smooth.
Combine the flour mixture and the wet mixture and mix until well-blended. Stir in the cinnamon chips. Spread the thick batter evenly in the prepared pan (and do it quickly so you're not tempted to eat it all before it's baked). Combine the sugar and cinnamon in a little bowl and evenly sprinkle the mixture over the top of the batter.
Bake 25 minutes or until surface springs back when gently pressed. Cool slightly. While still warm, cut into bars with a sharp knife. I recommend doing this with a clothes-pin on your nose.

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June 5, 2009

saucy.

It's extremely easy to buy barbecue sauce at the store. Well, actually, I take that back--there are so many appetizing varieties available that it becomes a little challenging to choose just one.


But that would be the only hurdle.

Still, I enjoy being in the kitchen (obviously) and I enjoy eating homemade things, so I thought I'd try my hand at making my own barbecue sauce.

Guess what. It's also extremely easy to make barbecue sauce at home. What's more, you can fine-tune it and toss in whatever tickles your fancy (and leave out whatever doesn't--no preservatives or modified starches in my blend, thank you very much). My fancy just so happens to be tickled by both heat and sweet, so I included ample amounts of the ingredients necessary to achieve these qualities.


My sauce made for a mean chicken barbecue sammich.

Never again will I have to stand in the sauce aisle at the grocery store, engaged in an intense internal debate, yet appearing to bystanders to be just staring at the stock like a moron...

Sweet Burn Barbecue Sauce
(adapted from Serious Eats)

2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup prepared yellow mustard
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer until dark and thick, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a clean bottle or jar and store in the refrigerator, where it will keep for several months.

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June 2, 2009

i'm not peter piper...

...but I did pickle some peppers.


I dill-pickled 'em, to be exact.

This endeavor was triggered by a pickling post I recently saw on The Kitchn and my never-ending love for dilly beans.

Here's what I did:
-I capped, seeded, and de-veined a huge bag full of peppers. Important note: Wash your hands thoroughly after doing this, even if you naively think the peppers are mild and in no way hot. [Heed my words. I (and my left eyeball) learned this the hard way.]
-I prepared the
brine recipe perfected by my Mamoxicillan, and heated it to its boiling point.
-I covered the peppers in the brine and left them in the fridge for two days so everyone could meet and get to know each other. (You could certainly can them if you'd like.)


Yes indeedly, pickled peppers please my palate, even if Peter Piper didn't pick a peck for me.

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