June 27, 2010

going vintage

If you're lucky, you have in your possession a few crinkly, brown, and splattered scraps of paper detailing tried-and-true recipes passed down from your grandma and your grandma's grandma. This is one such recipe, albeit with an enhancement or two.


The first time I made these bars, I was convinced until the second a bite entered my mouth that the praise bestowed upon this recipe was undeserved. Things were fine and dandy as I mixed up the batter--it came together very easily and quickly and--bonus--in one bowl. However, when I opened the oven to check on the doneness of the bars, my heart sank--I saw what appeared to be rock-hard edges and goopy, raw innards, as jiggly as jello. However, the toothpick test revealed only a few moist crumbs, so I forged onward and pulled the pan out. As the bars cooled, the middle sank completely, leaving towering walls...and me near tears. 


It's a hard life, ya know?

Hold the phone!  My spirits began to lift as I first sliced into the pan--the sides weren't as hard as cement after all and in fact, they cut up quite nicely. Further, the innards weren't a sloppy mess--they were dense and even a teensy bit elastic, reminiscent of baked caramel. And oh, that first bite--so rich and buttery, so melt-in-your-mouth magnificent. This recipe has rightfully earned every kind word it has ever received.

Throwback Butterscotch Bars
(adapted from this recipe)

1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup vanilla chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13x9-inch pan.
In a large microwaveable bowl, melt butter and whisk in brown sugar until well combined. Set bowl aside and let cool to lukewarm.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.
Whisk the eggs into the butter and sugar. Mix in the vanilla. Add the dry ingredients and stir just until combined. Dump batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle vanilla chips over the top.
Bake until the top is shiny and the edges just begin to pull away from the side of the pan, about 18 to 24 minutes. Do not overbake - a toothpick placed in the center should come out with moist crumbs attached. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before cutting into bars.

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June 23, 2010

kid-friendly, grace-approved

It seems I have been permanently afflicted. Every time I see or hear the words "peanut butter and jelly," a certain little ditty pops into my head.


Every time.

What's worse is that it stays in my head...for hours. At least I know I'm not the only one to whom this happens. Other people are stuck on the the jingle as well.


Needless to say, "it's peanut butter jelly time" ran through my mind constantly as I a) made these mini loaves, b) ate these mini loaves, and c) wrote about these mini loaves. Yes, it's peanut butter jelly time right now.

Peanut Butter Jelly Time Loaves
(based on this recipe)

6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 large eggs
1 cup milk
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
approx 1 cup jam, jelly, or preserves

Preheat oven to 350F and prepare baking apparatus.
In a large bowl, whisk together the melted butter, peanut butter, eggs and milk until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.
Fill each mold in selected baking dish about halfway up with batter. Top each with a hearty helping of fruity spread and cover with remaining batter.
I baked my mini-loaves for about 40 minutes, check muffins after 17-20 minutes, or just rely on the ol' toothpick test.

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June 18, 2010

three cheers for leftovers...

...or as my stepdad says, rightovers.

Granted, the picture ain't grand, but it still conveys the awesomeness, right? Right?
And I promise--I didn't intend to flip anyone off with that rogue onion.

It's pretty exciting when you're able to clear the fridge and feast on something more exciting and delicious than each of the individual components ever were by themselves. That was the case here. The fridge was pretty full--ground turkey, mashed potatoes, cooked corn, some lingering chicken broth. What to do, what to do?

The answer was obvious to me--shepherd's pie. Actually, a quick googling taught me that shepherd's pie is made with lamb while cottage pie is made using beef. Conundrum! What if it's made with chicken or turkey? I couldn't find any reasonable answer to that, so I hereby dub the concoction coop pie.

You know how to make it, but here's my version:

Coop Pie
leftover mashed potatoes
ground turkey, browned and drained of fat
assortment of veggies, including peas, corn, and onion
salt, pepper, paprika, Worcestershire sauce
chicken broth
pepper jack cheese

In a medium skillet, cook the onion and other uncooked veggies until they soften. Add the turkey, cooked veggies, and enough to broth to moisten everything and cook until warmed through. Season with salt, pepper, paprika, and Worcestershire sauce.
Pour into a casserole dish and cover with leftover mashed potatoes. Sprinkle Shower the top with pepper jack cheese and paprika (for the eyes more than the palate) and bake at 350F for 30 minutes or so, or until the potatoes become brown. Let sit for 5-10 minutes before digging in.

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June 14, 2010

this post brought to you by the letter 'c'

I just realized that so many of the foodstuffs I love begin with 'c.' Cinnamon, cilantro, coconut, chocolate, caramel, coffee, chiles, chicken, corn--and those are just the ones about which I feel very strongly!


Cashews, cloves, cheese, cherries, cumin, carrots, and on and on it goes. It's a good letter, am I right?

My most recent dessert combined two of those beloved ingredients--cinnamon and coconut. Although the original name of the recipe classifies it a bread, I consider it more cake-like than anything else, dense and sturdy yet still light. The fact that I added a hearty helping of cinnamon chips bumped up the treat-factor even more.  Bonus--it's a breeze to make, no beaters required.  (That's always a draw for me.) :)

As I peruse the list above, I see many magical combinations:
-chocolate and caramel
-chocolate and coffee
-chocolate and coconut
-chocolate and cherries
-chocolate and...you get the idea
-cilantro, chicken, chiles, corn, cumin, and cheese
-caramel and cashews


And on it goes. Good ol' letter 'c.'

Cocommon (but in no way common) Cake
(based on this recipe)

2 large eggs
1 1/4 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
Seeds scraped from a vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup superfine sugar
5 ounces flaked coconut (around 1 1/2 cups)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 cups cinnamon chips

Preheat an oven to 350°F. Grease up a loaf pan or a tube pan or whatever pan you have within your reach.
In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, extract, and vanilla seeds. Set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt. Stir in the sugar and coconut. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and slowly add the egg mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in the melted butter, being careful not to overmix. Fold in the cinnamon chips.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven until the cake is golden and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, around 1 hour for a loaf and 75 minutes for a tube pan. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in its tin for 5 minutes, then turn it out onto a wire rack.

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June 10, 2010

nurtured

What a difference a little TLC makes!


No, not this (methinks Jon and Kate would have an adverse effect) or that (probably not conducive to good egg-laying, but ya never know...) or this (yay science!). This is what I'm talkin' 'bout.

Fact: I don't want to start (or participate in) any heated discussions about the evils of factory farming or the abuse received by mass-produced livestock throughout the entire process. (This gal avoids confrontation at all costs.) However, in my eyes, the blatant and undeniable differences between store-bought eggs and those yielded from hens raised by some local farmers is astounding!

Interestingly, I recently read an article claiming that any variations between eggs originating in those two ways were practically indistinguishable. Hmm. Either my palate is quite refined (I think not) or the eggs being tested (either the local or store-bought varieties or both) are simply incomparable to what I'm buying.

Let me describe the eggs I recently got from my cousin, personally snatched from the nests of her brood and delivered shortly thereafter: the shell is firmer, the yolk is bigger and brighter, the taste is richer, and bonus--the guilt-factor is nonexistent. I can only vouch for my experience, but while the price tag may be on the higher side, methinks this is one instance where doling out a bit more is worth it.

Nurtured egg and cheese shmiscuit, anyone?

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June 6, 2010

saints preserve us!

Like many folks, I enjoy fruit preserves dolloped elegantly atop a piece of toast or biscuit. My latest successful experiment involved some of those scrumptious preserves delightfully incorporated into some quick bread batter.


Whenever I feel the need to bake, the first, second, and third places to which I turn for inspiration are (in no particular order) my refrigerator, cupboards, and pantry. On this occasion, my perusal of the fridge resulted in the discovery of about a quarter cup of lingering peach preserves.

'Wouldn't these dregs be great in some mini loaves?' I asked myself. (Do you talk to yourself? I do. At least I know someone's listening.) Convinced that they would indeed contribute to a tasty quick bread (and resisting the urge to just attack them with a spoon), I started with a basic muffin recipe, cut back the sugar, and added the preserves, chopped pecans, and nutmeg.


The result was a fluffy and sweet piece of breakfast bread--it was delicious. My only complaint would be that the taste of the peaches was too faint. In the future, I'll not wait until only a bit of preserves remain in the bottom of the jar and include more in the batter.

Ah, success. Feels gooood.

Peach & Pecan Planks
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 cup peach preserves
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°F. Spray pan of choice.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg. In another bowl, stir together milk, eggs, oil, preserves, and vanilla until blended. Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Add milk mixture and stir just to combine. Stir in pecans. Spoon batter into prepared molds and bake for 15-20 minutes for muffins, 25-30 minutes for mini loaves, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

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June 2, 2010

embrace the laziness

It takes a special kind of diligence and dedication to make croissants from scratch. This unique quality is one that, woefully, I have not yet obtained.


Yes, until that magically occurs (and I'm certain it will...eventually), I must be content to buy my croissants in an pre-made form, whether they be already baked...

This fabulous fluffiness comes from the WildFlour Bakery & Cafe, a stellar eatery also responsible for these pinnacles of cinnamon roll perfection.

...or awaiting some oven action. For this particular batch of canned croissants, I doused each square with some cinnamon sugar before rolling them up and baking them. I then topped each one with that all-too-addictive maple-coffee frosting introduced to me by the Pioneer Woman.


Awesome--an only-slightly-less-than-perfect treat complete in 20 minutes. Hard. To. Beat.

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June 1, 2010

and the moola goes to...

...Laura, of the elegant and lovely blog darkREDcrema! Congrats--get in touch with me via email and I'll tell ya what's next!

New lucky number, Laura? :)

Incidentally, I so enjoyed reading all the various reasons for loving the numbers that you do, if you even had a reason at all. There was a lot of interesting and fun rationale--thanks for sharing!

My favorite number, in case you were wondering, is 24.

Happy June!

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