Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buttermilk Cornbread

Some of the previous recipes I've made had small amounts of buttermilk in them, meaning I had a mostly-full container of buttermilk in my refrigerator. Conveniently, a friend of mine was having a potluck last weekend, so I decided to mix something up with the buttermilk. I ended up with a cornbread with savory flavor.


2 c. yellow cornmeal
1/2 c. flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 c. buttermilk
1 large egg
1/3 c. butter, melted - plus extra for top of loaf

Preheat oven to 425ºC, and butter an 8x8 glass baking dish. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix together with a whisk. Add the buttermilk, egg, and melted butter, then mix until combined. Pour into the glass baking dish and place into the middle of the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a crust begins to form on top. Pull the cornbread out of the oven and brush the top with a stick of butter. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then turn upside-down to dislodge the cornbread. Cut and serve warm. Serves 8.

Always a good comfort food, this is perfect for the upcoming holidays. One of my favorites growing up was having a hot bowl of homemade chili and eating some cornbread on the side. If you want to add a hint of sweet flavor, throwing in a couple tablespoons of honey could do wonders to this dish.

Buttermilk Cornbread

Always a good comfort food, this is perfect for the ...

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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Country Pizza

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to create a pizza of our own. The general way to make the pizza dough was given, but the selection of sauces and toppings were up to each blogger. Having made pizza dough in the past, I decided the shining point of this recipe would be finally emanating an old favorite of mine - a pizza from a gourmet shop in my hometown that was topped with country gravy, fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and mozzarella.

Because this was such a favorite of mine growing up, I was real worried that I'd be disappointed with my own end result. It's hard to live up to something you remember being so delicious. To be honest, while adding the ingredients on top, things weren't looking too great. The flavors just didn't seem to be coming together as well as they could have been, and I was worried it would come out bland. Something magical happened when it was all smashed together and baked in the oven though, and the pizza came out tasting exactly the way I remembered. I nailed it on my first try, and loved every bite. Now that I know how to make this pizza, I'm sure I'll be making it once in a while as a good treat.


Country gravy:
8 pork sausage links
2 T. unsalted butter
1 T. flour
1 c. milk

Cook the pork sausages as per directions on container. Using tongs or a fork, remove the sausages, leaving behind all the baked-on bits and grease.

Add the butter and melt. Sprinkle the flour on top, and whisk together to make the roux. Make sure to scrape up all the bits leftover from the sausage - that's where the gravy gets its flavor. Continue stirring over medium heat until a light nutty smell is coming from the roux, and it turns blonde. Whisking well, slowly add the milk and turn the temperature to high. Continue stirring, and whisk until thickened to the point of nappe, then remove from heat. Cut up the sausage links into small pieces and add to the gravy.

4 1/2 c. flour
1 3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon yeast
1/4 c. olive oil
1 3/4 c. water
1 tablespoon sugar

Combine the flour, salt, and yeast. Mix together lightly and place into a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add the olive oil, water, and sugar. Mix until the dough begins to come together, and then replace the paddle attachment with a kneading hook. Knead together for 10 minutes. The dough will be wet enough to stick to the bottom of the bowl, but it should be dry enough that it no longer sticks to the sides. Add flour or water as needed to get the right consistency. Let the dough rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours before punching down. Remove from refrigerator 2 hours before baking so it comes to room temperature.

1/2 Crust recipe
1/2 recipe Classic Mashed Potatoes
1/2 Country Gravy recipe
2 Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts, sliced
8 oz. mozzarella, shredded

Preheat the oven to 500ºF with a pizza stone on the bottom rack. Work the pizza dough with your knuckles and slowly form the circular pizza shape. Form a 12-inch circle on top of parchment paper, leaving a little extra dough on the outside edge for a thick crust. Spoon on the mashed potatoes and spread evenly. Drizzle the country gravy on top, including some sausage chunks. Place the chicken breasts on top, and top with the mozzarella. At this point, the pizza looks overloaded. Press down lightly on the top to compact the toppings. Slide the pizza and parchment paper onto the pizza stone and bake for 5 minutes. Pull from the oven and allow to sit for an additional 10 minutes before slicing.

The pressed down toppings end up even with the thick crust on the sides, resulting in a thick pizza. A single slice of this is like a meal on its own, so one pizza got me through several lunches. The flavors mash perfectly on this giant of a pizza. This is certainly one of my favorite recipes to date.

Country Pizza

Pizza loaded with mashed potatoes, country gravy, fried chicken, and ...

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Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Classic Mashed Potatoes

With the holidays coming up, I thought it'd be a good time to get a classic comfort food posted in here. These mashed potatoes are nice and creamy, with enough flavor that they can be eaten by themselves. No gravy necessary.

4 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
16 oz. sour cream
3 T. fresh chives, chopped
Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and add the roughly cubed potatoes. Boil until soft enough that a knife stuck into the middle of a cube comes back out without effort. Drain the water and roughly mash the potatoes. Add sour cream and chives, and mash with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste, serve warm.

This may not be the healthiest way to make mashed potatoes, but it definitely comes out wonderfully. It's always great to have these as a side to a wide variety of dishes, particularly steak or Thanksgiving turkey.

Classic Mashed Potatoes

Delicious mashed potatoes, perfect as a side to any number ...

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Chocolate-Chocolate (Almond) Cupcakes

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was selected by I Heart Food4Thought. The original recipe was for a grown-up bittersweet chocolate cupcake with a bittersweet chocolate glaze on top. I had some slivered almonds in the cupboard, so I added half a cup of those to the cupcake batter, and added 1/8 teaspoon of almond extract for a little extra flavor. The end product was a moist cupcake with great flavor.

I brought these in to work, and about half of them disappeared the first day. Keeping in mind we only had 8 or so people there that day, I'll take that as a good thing. I can never trust my own taste-buds with my baking.

Moowie is also bringing in some cupcakes today so we can have a little taste test between the two. I don't know if she's tried one of mine yet, so perhaps me sneaking in the almond extract and almond slivers can give me a little boost. That, and the Valrhona chocolate...I've taken to stocking extra Valrhona in the cupboard for baking.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 215-217

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Muffins

Nothing says fall like pumpkins. Well, maybe the turning of the leaves, or the weather getting cooler. Or maybe the end of daylight savings time. But when it comes to cooking, pumpkins show that fall's arrived. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe, Pumpkin Muffins, was picked by Sounding My Barbaric Gulp.

The mix of spices in these muffins are perfect to accompany the pumpkins. Allspice, cinnamon, ginger. I skipped on the nutmeg, because I still haven't gotten around to buying one. Biting into these muffins was reminiscent of eating pumpkin pie, but with a warm soft texture. The orange color that the pumpkins bring to the muffins definitely stands out, though it may not translate as well through pictures.

Come to think of it, that's pretty yellowish on the inside. But anyways, the outside is nicely orange. The addition of pecans, golden raisins, and sunflower seeds add to the texture, giving the muffin some good mouth-feel. These treats are perfect for any fall get together.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 13

Monday, October 20, 2008

Pan-fried chicken

When is something so plain worth the bother of posting in a blog? When it's so simple and versatile that it could be used in a multitude of recipes. This pan-fried chicken certainly isn't a main course; its only spices are salt and pepper. However, it's the perfect addition to a salad, pasta dish, or pizza.

I had a friend in college that would never eat chicken. I'm not sure why, but she absolutely loathed it. I'm sure it was some sort of quirk from a bad chicken experience as a child (why I'm still so iffy about broccoli), but things turned around when I made a pasta with this chicken in it. I've gotten other compliments on this recipe, and I'm not entirely sure why. I think the simplicity of the flavors, along with the seared exterior guaranteeing a moist interior, help return the flavor of chicken to...chicken. There are too many recipes out there that disguise chicken in layers of spices, sauces, and cheese. This recipe returns to the basics that are too often forgotten.

2 chicken breasts
4 T. flour
Salt and pepper
Olive oil

Sprinkle freshly ground salt and pepper over one side of the chicken. Pat it down with your hand gently so it sticks in place. Flip and repeat. Be liberal - too often people are afraid of adding too much salt, and end up not adding enough. Remember it's a flavor enhancer. Dust both sides of the chicken with flour, enough for a good coating. Be careful while handling the chicken so you don't get any cross-contamination. In a medium pan, add enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and put over medium-high heat. Once warmed, add the chicken breasts. Cook for 5 minutes before flipping, and cooking for an additional 5 minutes. Cut into the thickest part of the chicken and ensure there is no pink remaining before removing from the heat. Pat down the chicken gently with a paper towel to remove excess oil.

If you wanted to add herbs and spices, you could. However, I think just the salt and pepper bring out the flavor of chicken that's been ignored for too long. Make sure you add this austere alternative to the deep-fried variety next time you're adding something extra to a dish.

Pan-fried Chicken

A return to the way chicken should taste; this uncomplicated ...

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Delicious Dip

I've made this dip on several occasions, and every time it's unveiled everyone tends to turn voracious. I've never had this dip sit around for long without being completely consumed. Add the simplicity of the ingredients, and the quickness with which it's made, and you've got a great appetizer.

2 (8-ounce) sticks cream cheese, room temperature
1 can chili
1 1/2 c. Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1 bunch green onions, rinsed

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In an 8x8 inch baking dish, spread the cream cheese evenly across the bottom using a spoon. Pour the chili on top and spread evenly. Sprinkle the cheese on top - it doesn't have to be the exact amount, just eyeball it to get good coverage. I keep the green onions in the store-bought bunch (8 or so stalks) and cut them over the top of the cheese using scissors - it's a lot faster than using a cutting board. You don't have to use all of the onions, just enough to lightly cover the cheese. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the cream cheese is heated through. Serve with tortilla chips. Serves 6+.

The type of cheese and amount can vary, as can the types of chili. I typically go with something spicy to give the dip more flavor, but it can just as easily be mild or vegetarian. If you want the top to brown a little, you can remove the foil in the last 10 minutes of baking. And below is a picture of how everything typically looks a few minutes after being surrounded by people.

As I said, I've never had people ignore this dip. If you need a quick recipe that will please everyone, this is the one for you.

Delicious Dip

A quick and simple dip that always gets devoured.

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pizza Soup

It's been a long time since I broke out my crock pot, and we had a cold weekend in San Diego, so I decided to make some soup. As with any crock pot recipe, this is a great way to throw a bunch of ingredients together and let them cook while you're at work. When you get back, dinner's hot and ready to eat, and you get a great smell moving throughout the house.

This pizza soup has just the right amount of spice, and is packed with great flavor. It has everything you could want in a pizza, except the dough.

16 oz. spicy chicken sausage, sliced
1 large white onion, chopped
8 oz. crimini mushrooms
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 c. basic tomato sauce
1 c. chicken broth
Mozzarella cheese, shredded (to top)

Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker, and stir. Cook on low heat for 4-5 hours. Serve while hot, and top with mozzarella cheese. Serves 6.

It's really as simple as that. The end result is a great pizza filled with lots of different "toppings" that give it a lot of texture. This recipe is very adaptive, so you could add any sort of thing you'd normally want on a pizza instead. Instead of chicken sausage, use pepperoni. Instead of mushrooms, use hot peppers. Opt out the bell pepper. The choices are all up to you.

Pizza Soup

This pizza soup has just the right amount of spice ...

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Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Almond Biscotti

Wow, I've been too busy. I don't even know where the time is going, but I have several recipes with pictures waiting to be posted. I really need to get around to updating this blog more often - this Tuesdays only thing isn't enough for me. Anyways, back to this post: this week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was almond biscotti, selected by Canela & Comino.

Almonds are always delicious, in my opinion. My almond extract is almost gone because I keep adding it into things, and I tend to have a stash of almonds somewhere in the cupboard at all times. These biscuits are packed with almond flavor, and have just the right amount of sweetness. The texture is perfect, with a lightly crisp outside and a soft chewy interior.

I ended up slicing these on a 45º angle to get longer strips - the cuts looked a little too small without doing this. I also added just a few extra almonds (1 cup instead of 3/4 cup) to make sure every bite had a little crunch.

Recipe - Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, p. 141

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Caramel-Peanut-Topped Brownie Cake

What's better than brownies? Brownies with homemade caramel and nuts on top, of course. This week's Tuesdays with Dorie recipe was picked by Wee Treats by Tammy.

This was my first time making homemade caramel, and it turned out perfect. The cake came out a bit dry, even though I took it out of the oven 10 minutes early. The cake itself wasn't too exciting for me, it was a plain ol' cake, but that's not the purpose of this recipe now is it? The caramel topping was perfect on top.

I poured all of the caramel/almond (did I not mention I used almonds instead of peanuts? I used almonds instead of peanuts.) on top of the cake (which was domed...never sunk back in) and when I removed the spring-form pan it ended up spilling everywhere.

As you can see, it's spilling everywhere. I just spooned whatever was left and served like that. The cake has actually been sitting at work for about a week, one of the few that hasn't disappeared the same day. I think it's the messiness of it all that's making people stray away.

Recipe: Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan, pp. 264 - 265

Friday, October 3, 2008

Chocolate Almond Ice Cream

I can't take credit for this recipe, it was one that my mom showed up with a couple weekends ago. She came to the door of my brother's house with an ice cream mixer and this batter pre-made. It was actually a warm weekend in San Diego, so it was a perfect time for some delicious ice cream. We set up the ice cream maker, and let it go to town. The ice cream is rich, and has great texture with the addition of toasted almonds.

2/3 cup slivered almonds
2 cups sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup dutch-processed cocoa powder
2 large eggs, room temperature
3 cups light cream (half-and-half)
4 cups heavy whipping cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons almond extract

Spread the almonds onto a baking sheet and place into a preheated 350ºF oven. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. If you smell toasted almonds before you pull them out, you've over-cooked them. In a medium sized pan, combine the sugar, flour, and cocoa powder - mix until combined. Add the eggs and half-and half; whisk together. Place over medium heat, and constantly stirring, heat until lightly boiling, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool until close to room temperature, then stir in the whipping cream, vanilla, and almond extract. Chill in the refrigerator for a few hours. Pour into an ice cream mixer, and mix to directions. Once stirring begins to slow, add the toasted almonds, and mix until the ice cream is finished. Place into an airtight container, and freeze for 2 hours.

Chocolate Almond Ice Cream

A rich chocolate almond ice cream with toasted almonds.

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