Tag-Archive for ◊ potluck ◊

24 Jul 2014 Curried Chicken Meatballs with Apricot Rice Pilaf

curriedmeatballs01

I have a love-hate relationship with America’s Test Kitchen (and their related publications, Cooks Illustrated and Cooks Country).  I buy a LOT of their special interest publications. I like to read, and I enjoy reading recipes, and I like trying out new recipes. I like the pictures of each recipe and I like the all the notes that go along with each ATK recipe.  I have made some good things from ATK recipes, but I’ve made some not so good, too.  On the other hand, I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate that I cannot access any of the ATK recipes online without paying for them.  The only way around this is to get the name of the recipe you are interested in and Google it, or look on foodgawker or TasteSpotting for a hit, then go to a food blog, similar to this one, to get the actual recipe.  Compare this to Bon Appetit and Epicurious.  I subscribe to Bon Appetit, but even if I didn’t I could access all of their recipes for free on the Epicurious website, most of which have some wonderfully helpful comments.  I love being able to search Epicurious‘ recipe archives for any recipe they have published over the past years. I often find terrific recipes that way, searching on words such as “soup”,  “blueberries” and “brownies” and then scrolling through all the recipes with that key word. I don’t know why America’s Test Kitchen cannot do the same 😛

Anyways…, enough of my rant and onto my latest America’s Test Kitchen find!

The original recipe (by the same name) was from one of America’s Test Kitchen 30-minute Meals cookbooks.  The meatballs, although very simple with a very plain list of ingredients, are quite tasty and virtually perfect! I wanted to up the curry powder just a bit, but my offspring vetoed that idea,  saying they were good just as they are, so I left the meatball recipe alone (but I did “heap” the 1 T. of curry powder!).  I always make these meatballs with ground chicken, but I see no reason why ground turkey, ground beef, or ground lamb couldn’t be used. The 1 lb. of ground meat makes about 30-36 small meatballs.

I did change the pilaf recipe a quite bit, as ATK’s was much too bland. (Pilaf, by definition, contains rice cooked in broth, ATK version was cooked in water, and only got worse after that.) I substituted butter for vegetable oil, broth for the water and added a bit  more variety, and taste,  with additional veggies, herbs, and garnishes.  I also added a bit of salt and spice…, and the magical touch, a bay leaf and a long piece of lemon peel (both of which are fished out before serving).

I didn’t think it was true, but it was! I was able to make this, from start to finish, in 30-minutes…, AND it was a mighty tasty, spur-of-the-moment dinner!   Serve with a side of veggies, if you want, steamed broccoli would be good… 🙂

Curried Chicken Meatballs with Apricot Rice Pilaf

For Pilaf

  • 1 T butter (approx)
  • ½ -1 cup finely chopped onion (your favorite variety)
  • ½ -1 cup finely chopped mixed vegetables (celery, carrots, bell peppers…)
  • 1 cup long-grain white rice
  • 1 ¾ cups hot chicken broth (or water). OK to sub abut ¼ cup of liquid for ¼ cup white wine (another option: add one long strip of lemon, lime or orange peel-with no white pith attached, to the rice mixture when adding the liquid)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ½ -1 teaspoon salt (if your broth is salted, you might not need to add too much additional salt)
  • ½ – 1 cup chopped dried apricots or mixture of apricots and other dried fruits (raisins, cherries, cranberries)
  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds or other nuts (pistachios, pine nuts, chopped pecans)
  • 1/4 cup minced cilantro, parsley, basil, green onion, frozen peas, sautéed mushrooms or mint for last minute stir-in and garnish (choose one, maybe two…or three)

 For Meatballs

  • 1 pound ground chicken (or turkey)
  • ½ cup very finely minced raw onion (grated onion works well, too)
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder (maybe a bit more…)
  • 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper, or to taste

From start to finish: about 30 minutes

  1. In large saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat until shimmering.
  2. Add chopped onions and cook until softened, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add rice and cook until mostly opaque, about 4 minutes.
  4. Stir in choice of mixed veggies
  5. Add broth and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook until rice is tender, about 20 minutes. When cooked, remove from heat and let rice stand and steam until needed.
  6. Meanwhile, in large bowl, combine chicken, onions, panko, cilantro, curry powder, salt and pepper. Mix with fork until well blended.  Don’t overwork the meat mixture.
  7. Using wet hands (or a small scoop), shape mixture into 1-inch meatballs. (Depending on size, of course, makes about 30-36 meatballs)
  8. Heat a bit of oil in a large frying pan until hot.
  9. Add meatballs and cook until browned on all sides, about 5 minutes, shaking pan as needed.
  10. Cover the pan and steam meatballs over medium heat for an additional 5 minutes.
  11. Now turn your attention back to the rice. Take lid off the pan and gently fluff rice with a fork. Pick out the bay leaves and the optional lemon or orange peel.
  12. Add apricots/dried fruit mixture, toasted almonds/nuts and choice of stir ins to rice (reserve about 1 tablespoon, each, of nuts and green stir-ins). Stir to thoroughly incorporate all ingredients.
  13. Transfer pilaf to a serving platter, top pilaf with hot, browned meatballs, and then sprinkle the reserved 1 T. of  nuts and cilantro, parsley, mint or green onion over the top. Add a serving spoon and . . . .
  14. Dinner is ready! YUM!

curriedmeatballs02

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today 🙂  I hope that you make  and enjoy these and I hope they become a family favorite, as they have in my house!

08 Mar 2014 Kipferls (Vanilla Hazelnut Butter Cookies)

kipferl2

I had never, ever heard of Kipferls before.  Then, in two weeks they came into my life twice!  First, my friend Priscilla made some in the Culinary School Pastry Arts program she is enrolled in. I didn’t try one because I don’t like nuts.  I dislike nuts so much that the name of the cookie didn’t even register.  Then I read “The Book Thief” and Kipferls are important in one chapter.  Since I was hosting book club this month and since the author had contributed his mother’s recipe for Kipferls to “The Book Club Cookbook” that my friend Kayte  gave me for my birthday last year, I decided to make the cookie. I had to do a Google image search to see what they looked like! Then came the hunt for Hazelnut Flour.  It’s out there. I found it at Sprouts.  I was shocked by the price.  I told the cashier that there must have been a mistake.  She said she doubted it.  I asked her to call for a manager for a price check.  YEP.  She was right.  There was no mistake.  It’s $16.95 for a 14 oz. packet of Hazelnut Flour (aka Hazelnut Meal). After creating such a fuss, and with my book club in less than seven hours, I bought the dangblasted expensive and pitifully small bag of Hazelnut Flour. BTW, you don’t have to buy this flour to make these cookies.

How to avoid using expensive Hazelnut Flour:

1. Make your own.  Preheat oven to 350°F. Place 6 ounces (1 1/4 cups) of shelled hazelnuts on a baking sheet in a single layer. Bake 8–10 minutes, stirring occasionally until the hazelnuts are fragrant and brown. Remove the nuts from the  oven and let cool slightly. While still warm, though, fold the nuts inside a clean kitchen towel and rub vigorously to remove their skins. Place skinned nuts in a food processor fitted with the stainless-steel blade, and process until they are finely ground.

2. Substitute Almond Flour or Almond Meal for the Hazelnut Flour.  Almond Meal is about one-third the price of Hazelnut flour.  My German friend Karin said she always makes her Kipferls with Almond Meal, but her German relatives grind their own nuts.

To continue with my saga…Upon returning home with my $16.95 package of Hazelnut Flour, I got out the recipe and got started.  No! Two vanilla beans?  TWO?  For 36 cookies?  It is now clear to me that I am making World’s Most Expensive Cookie and I am thinking these better be good.  (They were, thank goodness. So good I might have to make them again, and again, and again…)

This recipe is based upon Markus Zusak’s recipe for Kipferls as published in The Book Club Cookbook.  I made some changes to the method and to the ingredients.  Mr. Zusak’s mother mixed her dough by hand, I tried it for a bit, then resorted to my electric mixer.  I split the use of the vanilla beans, putting one in the cookie and one in the powdered sugar, Mr. Zusak put both in the powdered sugar. I had to quadruple the amount of powdered sugar to cover all the cookies, and I covered the cookies with the powdered sugar while the cookies were still warm* so get a crackly, almost melted sugar coating on the cookies. (*Let the cookies cool a little, to firm up a bit.  If you toss hot cookies in powdered sugar, the cookie will break.)

Kipferls

Crisp German Vanilla Hazelnut Butter Cookies

For the cookies

  • 1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups Hazelnut Flour or Hazelnut Meal or alternative (see above)
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 14 tablespoons (1 ¾ sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, split in half, and insides scraped off with a knife.  Discard the outside of the vanilla bean

For the vanilla sugar

  • 1 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 whole vanilla bean, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces (different preparation than above)
  1. Make the vanilla sugar first.  Place the powdered sugar with the chopped up vanilla bean in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade.  Process until the vanilla bean has been incorporated into the powdered sugar, several 10 second bursts.  Place a fine meshed sifter over a small bowl and sift the powdered sugar to remove the unblended pieces of vanilla bean.  Pour vanilla sugar into a large Ziploc bag. Set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray two baking sheets lightly with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.
  3. Combine all purpose flour, hazelnut flour/meal, and granulated sugar in a large bowl. Cut butter into 1/2-inch pieces and add to flour mixture. Scrape the inside out of the split vanilla bean and add to bowl.  With an electric mixer, mix dough for 3-4 minutes or until a soft dough is formed.
  4. Pinch off small pieces of dough (1 T; 1/2 oz; 15 grams) and mold gently between your palms to form 3-inch ropes, thicker in the middle and tapered at the ends.   This took a bit of doing to master.  I rolled the dough to the length of my three middle fingers.  I rolled the dough a bit more firmly with my ring and index finger so the ends of the dough would be thinner. Fashion each piece of rolled dough into a crescent shape and place onto the prepared trays, see picture above.
  5. Bake in preheated 350º oven for 15-20 minutes or just until the cookies are beginning to turn brown.  Mr. Kusak says that once the Kipferls are brown, they are over cooked.
  6. Remove cookies from oven.  Cool just slightly and then toss into the Ziploc bag with the vanilla sugar–tossing the cookies while they are still hot creates a slightly melted-on, and truly special coating.  Toss  cookies in vanilla sugar.
  7. Remove cookie to a cooling tray and repeat with remaining cookies and vanilla sugar.  If you have vanilla sugar left over, you can re-coat the cookies.
  8. Let cool completely before eating. The cookies will crisp up as they cool.

 Yield: About 3 ½ dozen cookies

Kipferls1

I hope you enjoy the World’s Most Expensive Cookie!  They ARE good and worth the cost and the effort. Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!

PS…I am making another batch of these cookies to take to a Tahoe retreat this weekend.  One bag of that dangblasted expensive Hazelnut Flour does make three batches of these cookies…AND, Costco sells vanilla beans now.  Note my friend Sally’s point, put the vanilla beans in the powdered sugar as soon as you get them.  Once you are ready to make the cookies, remove the beans and use as outlined above.  The benefit is that some of the essence of the vanilla beans will have soaked into the sugar…yummmmm.

02 Mar 2014 Black Forest Torte (Black Forest Cake)

BookThief-torte

Once a year I host a book club meeting at my house.  My night was last night.  The book was “The Book Thief” so the theme was German food.  Thanks to input from the Internet, I decided to make a “Black Forest Torte” for dessert.  I found a recipe posted on Food.com by a “real German lady”, and decided to make it, with no advance practice session (I know, living on the edge!).

The cake was a delicious show-stopper.  Just look at that picture! I haven’t made too many show-stopper cakes before so I was quite thrilled with the way this one turned out.  PHEW! And I’d like to extend a big, grateful ‘danke’ to the “real German lady” 🙂

I made a few changes to the recipe, of course:  I used pitted sour cherries from a jar, rather than fresh cherries (they’re not in season right now), and I used butter, rather than shortening, in the cake batter. I also made two 9.5 inch cake layers instead of the three 9-inch layers specified in the original recipe (I really dislike 3 layer cakes).  I modified the mixing method for the cake. I used espresso powder, rather than cold brewed espresso, in the filling and adjusted the amount of Kirsch in the filling as well. I upped the whipped cream frosting by 50%.

Now, if you make this cake, you’ll need to start three days in advance and, please, DO make this cake!

  • Day 1: Drain the cherries and soak in Kirsh.
  • Day 2: Make the chocolate layer cakes, soak the cakes in the Kirsch drained from the (now boozy) cherries.  Make the filling and assemble the layers one on top of the other.  Refrigerate overnight.
  • Day 3: Make the chocolate curls and the whipped cream frosting. An hour or two before serving, decorate the cake with the whipped cream, reserved cherries, and chocolate curls. Serve!
  • Day 4: The leftovers are yummy! I called four friends over for tea, and they all accepted, enjoyed the cake, and took slices home for their husbands!  (So far, I have cut sixteen slices from this cake, and there is one slice left in the refrigerator for my 23 year old twins to fight over.

 Black Forest Torte

Cake

  • 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour (8 oz)
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder (I had Hershey’s on hand, so that’s what I used)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk

Mocha Buttercream Filling

  • 1/2 cup kirsch
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  •  1 1/2 teaspoons instant  espresso powder
  • 2 jars of pitted sour cherries, drained (I got mine at Trader Joes-1 1/2 lbs each, most supermarkets have  1 lb. cans of cherries in the canned fruit section) OR 1 1/2 lbs fresh black cherries, pitted

Whipped Cream Frosting

  • 3 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2-3 tablespoons  kirsch
  • 2 tablespoons dry milk powder (optional, but helps with stability of whipped cream icing)
  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate Garnish

  • One large, 3.5-4 oz. dark chocolate bar, grated or curled

DIRECTIONS

  1.  Drain the cherries then soak them in 1/2 cup Kirsch overnight. Discard the cherry juice UNLESS you want to make a non-alcoholic cake.  If you want a non-alcoholic cake (like, if children will be eating it) use the cherry juice  from the cherries instead of the Kirsch and proceed as outlined below.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F
  3. Drain the cherries from the Kirsh.  RESERVE the liquid!  Most of the liquid will be poured over the hot cakes. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the liquid for the filling.
  4. Line the bottom of two 9 inch round cake pans with parchment. Spray the sides with “Pam for Baking”, or grease with a bit of butter or oil.
  5. Sift the dry cake ingredients together and set aside.
  6. With an electric mixer beat the shortening to soften, then add the sugar.  Beat for six minutes or until the shortening-sugar mixture is light and fluffy.
  7. Add the eggs, one at a time and mix well.  Stir in the vanilla.
  8. Add one-third of the dry ingredients to the sugar mixture and beat to combine. Add half of the buttermilk. Beat to combine. Add another one-third of the dry ingredients and beat to combine.  Add remaining buttermilk.  Beat to combine.  Finally, add the last of the dry ingredients and beat well. alternately with the buttermilk and mix well.
  9. Pour batter into the prepared cake pans.
  10. Bake in preheated 350 oven for approx. 25 minutes or until a cake springs back when touched.
  11. Remove the cakes from the oven.  Leave the cakes in the pans and immediately and slowly, pour some of the reserved Kirsch-cherry juice mixture over both cakes. Let the Kirsch soak in, then repeat until all but 2 tablespoons of the Kirsch-cherry liquid has been used. (The remaining 2 tablespoons liquid will be used in the filling)
  12. Let the cakes cool in their pans.
  13. Make the filling. With an electric mixer  beat the butter until light and creamy. Add the powdered sugar, salt, espresso powder, and 2 tablespoons Kirsch-Cherry juice and beat well for 3 or 4 minutes. If the filling is too thick add some extra Kirsch, cherry juice, or cream (add only an extra 1/2 tsp. at a time). The filling should be spreadable, but firm.
  14. Place the base layer on cake plate.  Spread filling over top, then cover with drained cherries (save some good, firm, pretty cherries to go on top of the cake as decoration). I took the time to place each cherry in concentric layers, which I think helped with the stability of the cake. Add the second cake on top of the filling and cherries on the first layer.  Push down a bit to secure a firm fit between the layers.
  15. Cover the cake  and let sit in refrigerator overnight for the flavors to meld.
  16. A few hours before serving place the whipping cream, powdered sugar, Kirsch, vanilla, and optional dry milk powder in the bowl of an electric mixer. Whip the cream until it forms stiff peaks.
  17. Spread the whipped cream frosting over all of the cake. Decorate the sides first, then the top.  If you want to be fancy, put some of the whipping cream in a Ziploc or a piping bag and pipe rosettes or swirls around top and bottom of cake.
  18. Pat the reserved cherries dry, and then place in a pretty design on top of the cake.
  19. Grate the chocolate bar or use a vegetable peeler to make chocolate curls. Gently, and decoratively  press handfuls of the grated chocolate onto the sides of the cake.
  20. Store cake in refrigerator until an hour or so before serving.  Serve and enjoy.  (You should get about 16 generous slices from this cake.)

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today, and I hope there is a Special Occasion coming up soon so you can make this cake.  It’s a keeper!

Just in case you are wondering, and in case you are reading this because you’ll also be hosting a book club meeting based upon “The Book Thief”, I also made Kipferls. Kipferls, which are significant in the book, were left by the window for people to take home (just like in the book).  I’ll posted that recipe, too, since they were soooooo good (but soooooo expensive to make, more about that later). My book club does snacks and dessert. For snacks I had a bowl of apples, German bread with cheese and liverwurst, and soft pretzels with a beer-mustard-cheese dip (no picture of the pretzels and dip) and Stollen! To drink, we had champagne, of course.  Those of you who read the book know why.

BookThief-snacks

02 Aug 2013 Beans!

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I am so excited about this recipe!  It’s a paradigm shift recipe!  It’s not a recipe in the true sense of the word, it’s more of a road map to a particular destination.   A road map allows for more flexibility than a recipe, a road map allows the cook to make adjustments based upon personal preferences, taste, time, and what’s in the pantry.  I think most people have a road map for a few good dishes.  I have a road map for spaghetti sauce, chicken soup, stir-fry and hamburgers.  You might have a road map for meatloaf, burritos and rice bowls.  Most people have road maps for sandwiches and salads. A road map means there are guidelines, easy ones, usually ones that can be memorized, and that can always be adapted as the situation requires.

So here it is, a guideline for a pot of beans, in the crockpot no less!  Crockpot cooking is great for summer, the kitchen doesn’t get heated up, and a pot of beans pairs well with almost everything that can be BBQ’d.  In the winter months, a bowl of beans with some cornbread or tortillas is almost the definition of comfort food. Another plus, crockpot cooking is fuss free, so toss everything in the pot and then go sit in the sun or shovel snow.

Many thanks to Mark Bittman of the New York Times for this road map. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

BTW…, for years I have been looking for a good baked beans recipe, so that’s what I make with this recipe:  meaty, slightly sweet Boston-style beans.  YUM! They go with everything and I have  a serious love for leftover beans on toast (I’m English).  My son mastered this recipe in one take and he makes killer spicy teriyaki beans with chicken.  I can see others going for more of a Mexican style bean. What sort of beans do you like? Make them!

The House Special Beans

  • 1 lb of dried beans, any kind, I like small white and pinquitos but black, pintos, garbanzos, kidney, or a combination of different kinds of beans can also be used.  Don’t have a full pound of beans?  Add in some split peas or lentils to make up the difference.  Remember these are dried beans (about $1.25 for a pound bag) we are not using canned beans here (and there is no need to soak the beans first).
  • 4 cups of liquid, any kind.  Find a mixture that appeals to you. I start with a bottle of beer, then I add in about 1/4 cup of ketchup, 1/4 cup of Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup of brown sugar and a squirt of mustard, using molasses instead of maple syrup and brown sugar would be good too. If my Dad were here I’d stir in 1/4 cup of bourbon. Then I add water, broth (any kind), or cold coffee to make the 4 cups (too much coffee will make the beans a bit bitter, so stick to less than 1 cup of cold coffee).  My son adds BBQ sauce, sriracha, honey, teriyaki or soy sauce along with beer and coffee.  Don’t like beer?  Use some leftover wine. Don’t drink at all, stick to broth and water.   Health nut?  Stir in carrot juice and some of that green liquid you’re so fond of !
  • Seasonings, any kind.  Start with a healthy amount of salt and pepper, then add in what appeals to you.  I add in 2 t. salt, 1 t. black pepper, 1 t. cumin, 2 t. chili powder, minced garlic, and 2 bay leaves.  Other options include oregano, basil, coriander, red pepper, curry powder, ginger, paprika, liquid smoke, parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme…
  • 1 lb meat, any kind, a bit more or a bit less is fine.  I like beef, and I buy something on sale, beef shanks, top sirloin, stew meat, steak, anything.  Throw in a pork chop or two, or some ground meat (brown it first and drain off the fat), chicken (with or without the bones, but boneless chicken does tend to get a bit overcooked), sausage, ham, cooked bacon…, or go for a combo.  Sausage and chicken? Beef and bacon? Or leave out the meat all together if  you’d rather.
  • 2 lbs finely minced or grated veggies, any kind.  I always add diced onion, grated carrots, and minced celery.  Then I might add some shredded zucchini, turnip, cabbage, spinach or kale, whatever I have on hand. Throw in some potatoes. Lots of folk like bell peppers, dice some up and throw them in.  Leeks are yummy. A few diced jalapenos would spice things up. Even canned pumpkin works. The only veggie I don’t add is tomatoes. I heard once that tomatoes interfere with the cooking process of dried beans, so I leave them out (I also don’t use tomato juice as a liquid, but I do stir in a bit of ketchup, and have had no problem with that).

Directions:

  1. Put the dried beans in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  2. Get out a 4-cup measure.  Combine your liquids.  When you have 4 cups, pour it over the beans in the bottom of the crock-pot.
  3. On top of the beans and liquid, add the meat.  I add the meat as is, then remove the fat and bones, and shred the meat after cooking.  You can do the same, or you can add cubes of boneless, skinless meat.
  4. Sprinkle desired seasonings on top of the meat.  (If you add bay leaves, count them so you know how many to remove before serving!)
  5. Finely mince, dice, or shred the veggies.  Add the veggies on top of the meat. (The liquid will not cover the veggies, yet).
  6. With a spatula or a spoon, press on the ingredients to lightly pack.
  7. Put the lid on the slow cooker, plug it in, turn on high, and go out and play! If you are around, check the beans after a few hours.  If the beans look dry add a bit more water, stock, beer, or wine (don’t stir, just pour it on top).
  8. Let beans cook for 6-8 hours.  Turn off.
  9. After the beans have cooled for a bit, taste them.  Needs more salt?  More maple syrup? More heat? Add it now.  If you added large hunks of meat with bones, remove bones and shred the meat. Remove the bay leaves, if you used them.
  10. If you want to add in extras, do it now.  You could stir in some diced tomatoes now, if you’d like, they won’t do any harm at this point (let cook for an additional 30 minutes or so).  Sometimes I stir cooked bacon at this point.  You could stir in frozen corn, if you’d like. Adding chopped parsley, cilantro, or green onion makes the beans look pretty and brightens them up a bit for a pretty presentation.
  11. Remember, beans seem to taste better the day after they are made, so don’t be afraid of letting them rest in the refrigerator for a bit.

Soooo, do you have the road map memorized?  1 lb beans, 1 lb meat, 2 lbs veggies, 1 qt (4 cups) liquid. Seasonings. Crock-pot. High. 6-8 hours, while you go out and play 🙂

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  Go ahead now, make some beans! Let me know what you used and how they turn out 🙂 I can’t stop my son from making these beans! We’re drowning in beans…, but we’re not broke! Beans we can afford 🙂

24 Jun 2013 Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

Crab and brie mac n cheese

Whooooa Nelly!  Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese?  Over-the-top decadence in a comfort food?  YEP! And the decadence makes the comfort food even more comforting–like ‘died and gone to heaven’ comforting!  Yet another winning recipe from Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication “Best Loved Reader Recipes; 125 Winners from 1930 to Today”. (My last post was a recipe for “Peach Iced Tea” inspired by a recipe from this magazine)

If someone is having a hard time, and that sweet “I am going to drop off a casserole” American tradition seems appropriate, THIS is the casserole to take.  I took it to my 120-miles away daughter who is bravely attempting a semester long college Physics course in a six-week summer session, working the 4 PM-midnight shift at Target, and sweltering in the hot central valley heat. I am not saying this Macaroni and Cheese is miraculous or anything, but she did  score 15 points over the class average on her first mid-term. Not dropping off a casserole to a friend-in-need anytime soon?  I’ll bet you’ll be going to a potluck then. Take this!  Want to eat it at home, like we did?  We had it with mixed roasted veggies, but a leafy green salad would be nice too, and a corn muffin.

This casserole is not cheap, but if you shop at Costco for your pound of brie and pound of crab (the only two expensive ingredients), it won’t break the bank and you’ll have made a casserole big enough feed a small army.

Truth be told, I was a bit afraid of this recipe at first, wondering if the Brie would be too strong, and wondering if I would be able to taste the crab over the brie.  Both worries proved needless.  Everything melds together nicely.  Comfortingly nice.  I’ll say it again, because it’s true, ‘died and gone to heaven’ nice!

I changed the recipe just just a bit; one, to conform to the quantities of crab and brie sold at Costco (no leftover bits and no need to buy two big cartons of anything) and two, to make the recipe a bit easier by  substituting panko instead of homemade bread crumbs. I also re-wrote the recipe a bit, making roux is not hard, just follow my instructions: brown the flour and butter (and don’t skimp on the butter), remove the pan from the heat, then vigorously stir in hot milk until sauce is smooth.

Enjoy your comfort food decadance.

Crab and Brie Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 lb. dried macaroni (small shells or elbows)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 5 tablespoons butter (maybe a bit more)
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2%)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 13-16 oz. Brie, cubed
  • 16 oz. refrigerated container crabmeat, drained and flaked
  • 1/2 cup Panko or favorite breadcrumbs
  1. Cook macaroni in salted water according to package directions.  (Choose the shortest cooking time since pasta will continue to cook when baked.) Drain and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-in by 13-in casserole dish.
  3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, saute onion in butter until tender and golden, about 15 minutes.  (Do not skimp on the butter.  You’ll need the full quantity of  butter to make the roux in the step 5.)
  4. Heat 3 cups of milk in microwave until hot (3-5 minutes).
  5. Meanwhile, over medium heat, stir flour into onion and butter mixture.  Stir constantly for 3 minutes (to cook flour and to incorporate butter into the flour).  If mixture is too lumpy or dry, add an additional tablespoon of butter.
  6. Remove hot pan with onion and roux from heat.  Pour in 1 cup of hot milk.  Stir well, and keep stirring-vigorously if needed-until mixture is smooth and lump free.  Add another cup of hot milk, stir and mix again.  When mixture is smooth and lump free, repeat with last cup of milk.
  7. Return pan to medium heat. Add cubed brie to sauce in pan.  Stir constantly until brie is melted and incorporated.  Remove pan from heat when brie has melted and the sauce is smooth once again.
  8. Fold drained crab into cheese sauce then stir in cooked and well-drained macaroni.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Pour crab-brie-macaroni mixture into a well buttered 9-in x 13-in casserole dish.
  11. Sprinkle bread crumbs over top of macaroni and cheese.
  12. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes or until mixture is heated through and bread crumbs have browned.  If breadcrumbs don’t brown, turn on the broiler and broil casserole for a few minutes.
  13. Remove casserole from oven. Let cool 5 – 10 minutes, then serve. In a bowl, while curled up on the couch with a good book or good movie, or on a plate with roasted veggies or a salad, and maybe a small corn muffin. Enjoy.  Feel better. Ace the Physics test!

Leftovers can be reheated in microwave or frozen for a future treat.

Thank you for stopping by my kitchen again today,  I love having you drop by!  Let’s see what else I can make from this magazine. It’s supposed to be on the shelves until July 15, 2013, so if you see it, you might want to pick up a copy.

08 Jun 2013 Peach Iced Tea

2 Peach Iced Tea Vert

I made a Peach Iced Tea! I am so excited that I have to share the recipe with you, even as I work to make it more natural (off to the farmer’s market tomorrow for my first try). I didn’t want you all to have to wait until I got the natural version perfected as this version works fine!  I know there are hot days and summer parties in your near future–graduations, Father’s Day, showers, birthday parties, July 4th celebrations, and BBQ’s, so I know you need this recipe now!

This tea, as is, is not too sweet, and definitely has a pronounced peach flavor; it’s like Snapple Peach Iced Tea, only better!  Make the big-batch peach base to keep in the freezer and you’ll be able to whip up a quart of Peach Iced Tea for yourself and a good book! Or make a gallon or two  for a  summer party in a flash.  I, for one, would love to go to a summer party where there’s something to drink other than bottles of beer, soda and water 🙂 (BTW, I have a recipe posted for Blueberry Lemonade, too, which is also very good!).

The peach part of the tea was inspired by a recipe I found in a “Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest Publication” entitled , “Best Loved Reader Recipes; 125 Winners from 1930 to Today”.  The recipe in the magazine was for a “Sparkling Peach Punch”, where the base below is mixed with ginger ale or sparkling water.  I tried both versions. The ginger ale version was very sweet, the sparkling water version was given a thumbs up by my daughters, but the iced tea version created by yours truly was the star of the show.

Notes:

#1 Make the base and freeze it in three 1-quart batches or six 2-cup batches.  Each 1-quart peach base will mix with 2 quarts of strong tea to make 12 cups/3 quarts of  Peach Iced Tea, add ice and you have a party!  Each 2-cup peach base mixed with 6 cups of strong tea will make 8 cups/2 quarts of Peach Iced Tea, add ice and a friend and you have a cool and tasty summer drink with which you and  your friend can enjoy a little down time.

#2 Make the tea twice as strong as you would for regular hot tea!  I prefer English or Irish tea bags such as Barry’s Irish Gold, or Yorkshire Gold or PG tips.  Trader Joe’s Irish Breakfast tea is also very good (but, oddly, the English Breakfast tea isn’t very good at all). I use 3 or 4 tea bags to each quart of boiling water.  If I had to use Lipton or Red Rose Tea, I’d use at least six tea bags to a quart of boiling water.  I haven’t experimented with green tea, as I am not a big fan, but I am sure green tea could substitute for the black tea, and of course, decaf tea could be used too, if that is your preference.

#3 I don’t know why there is gelatin in the base, that’s one of the things I am going to experiment with and try to remove, but, I think it probably does add to the overall peachiness of the drink. Yes, yes, yes, one of the first things I will experiment with is using fresh peaches in place of the canned peaches…but until that happens, make this version, it’s yummy!

Peach Iced Tea

For the Peach Base:

  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 13-ounce package peach-flavored gelatin
  • 1 29-ounce can peach slices in light syrup
  • 4 11 ounce cans peach nectar (find them on the shelves of the grocery store next to the bottled juices)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  1. Combine water, sugar, and gelatin in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stir to dissolve the gelatin then remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Place undrained peach slices in blender, and blend until smooth.
  3. In a 1 gallon capacity bowl, pan or pitcher combine gelatin mixture, pureed peaches, peach nectar, and lemon juice. Stir to combine.
  4. Divide peach mixture into three 1-quart batches or six 2-cup batches.  Use now (see steps below), or freeze until needed.  According to the original recipe, the base can be frozen for up to 3 months.

To Brew the Tea and Combine With the Peach Flavor:

  • Desired quantity of peach base (remove from freezer an hour or two before needing)
  • Tea bags (Make the tea twice as strong as you would for regular hot tea, see note #2 above)
  • Boiling water (You will need to make 2X the amount of water for the quantity of base you are using, see note #1 above)
  1. Pour the required amount of boiling water over the tea bags and let steep for 3-5 minutes.  Don’t let the tea steep for more than 5 minutes or it will start to get bitter.
  2. Fill a pitcher half full of  ice.  Pour the hot brewed tea over the ice. Discard the tea bags.
  3. Stir the peach base into the iced tea.
  4. Pour into glass and enjoy! ahhhhhhhh

It’s mercilessly HOT here, and I hate hot, but a glass of Peach Iced Tea, a day off, and a good book does make the summer somewhat enjoyable(!)

Thanks for stopping by my kitchen today!  I am going to try some more recipes from this magazine–Calypso Shrimp Skewers, Coconut Salmon Curry, Macaroni and Brie with Crab, Green Beans with Basil and Mint, so stay tuned!

BTW, if you have the magazine, I’ve already tried the “Bagel, Lox and Egg Strata” recipe… The picture looked great.  The make-ahead casserole wasn’t bad, but neither was it great, and I see no reason to make it again.