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Archive for January, 2010|Monthly archive page

Feta Toast!

In Breads / Grains, Snacks on January 30, 2010 at 3:01 pm
feta toast

Sweet, savory Saturday snacks! How's that for alliteration?

Why hello there, dear readers! Surprised to hear from me on a Saturday? I’ll bet you are! This is my first Saturday post, and it’s going to become habit. Let me tell you why. See, Mr. Gorilla and I usually don’t eat dinner on Saturday nights because we go out with our friends. The last thing I need is a full, bloated belly to contend with when I’m getting dressed for a night out. Besides, if you drink on an empty stomach, you’re very likely to keep the bar tab under a hundred dollars. Last Saturday at the Blue Martini, however, caused me to revise my opinion of drinking on an empty stomach.

I still don’t want to eat a full meal before I go out, but I’ve decided to make a nice hor’ de ‘ouvres platter for us to munch on in the early evening hours. Today’s special? Feta toast! I had some bread and cheese to use up, so this is what I made. It was great! But you kinda have to serve it immediately. It gets cold very quickly. But it’s just the thing when you have the munchies – quick, easy, sweet, and savory. Hop to it!

Feta Toast

Ingredients:

8 slices thin-sliced bread – I used Pepperidge Farm Very Thin

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

4 ounces feta cheese

black pepper and rosemary to taste

Directions:

Why does this oil make me so happy? You'll see!

This is so easy, you’ll amaze yourself!

Preheat oven to 425.

Lay the bread slices out on a baking sheet.

Whisk together the oil, honey, pepper, and rosemary. Resist temptation to drink it.

Brush each slice of bread with your beautiful oil mixture – be generous! Use it all up! Try to get all the way to the edges, but it’s okay if you don’t. I won’t smack you.

Crumble the feta cheese and distribute evenly among the bread slices. Again, be generous! Try not to let it clump up  – keep it evenly spread.

Toast the bread in the oven for about 5 minutes, then switch on the broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until everything is satisfactorily golden. If you use the Very Thin bread, keep in mind that it does toast quickly – keep an eye on that instead of the cheese.

Remove from oven, halve diagonally (a pizza cutter works great here). Drizzle with additional honey if you like!

Serve immediately. Try to actually leave the kitchen without finishing it all yourself. It’s nice to share, you know.

Okay then, chilluns! Happy Saturday!

Chicken Stew! Just For You!

In Chicken, Soups/Stews on January 29, 2010 at 4:25 pm

Guaranteed to cure a hangover!

So, I had three measly chicken drumsticks in the fridge that I had taken out to thaw for a dinner I never made. I then forgot about them for a day. Next thing you know, I’m in the fridge for something to drink, and what’s sitting on the shelf in front of the water pitcher? The darn chicken. Doh! Well, I had already planned something else for dinner that night, and we were going out the next night, so what should I do with them? Can’t re-freeze them. Not gonna eat ‘em. Definitely NOT going to just leave them in the fridge – I don’t know about you, but raw chicken gives me the heebie jeebies if it’s been in the fridge for more than a couple of days. And I refuse to throw away perfectly good food. There are children starving all over.

Then it hit me – stew! Yeah! Throw a bunch of crap into a crockpot, let it do its thing for a few hours, then freeze it until I need an emergency dinner! I am a genius, I know. So that’s what I did.  It’s a good thing, too, because that emergency dinner came last night – out came the stew, so. Down the hatch, so. Double-take! Omigod! That’s good! Really, really good. As in cures-what-ails-ya. Flushes ya out. Gets rid of stuff. Yeah, it’s better than medicine.

Being the generous person I am, I decided to share this one with you, my lovely readers. Both of you. I know, it’s a young blog, traffic will pick up. Until that happens, consider yourselves the privileged holders of the magic stew recipe!

There are so many ways to do this, but this is how I did it the other night:

Chicken Stew

Ingredients:

3 chicken drumsticks

4 ribs celery, chopped

3 carrots, chopped

1/2 large sweet onion, chopped

3 cups kale, rinsed and torn

1/2 cup uncooked pastina (tiny stars)

2 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

salt, pepper, sage, thyme, rosemary

Directions:

Remember how we layered with the beef stew? We’re going to do something similar here. In your crock-pot, layer the onions, then chicken, then carrots and celery.

Add the broth and water, and season to taste. It won’t hurt if you over-season a little – this is going to be cooking a long time, and it produce additional liquid, so the flavor will dilute a bit. Besides, I like highly seasoned food. Season away!

Cover and cook on high for about 3 hours. Wait! You’re not done! Open it up (this is where I always get the steam burns) and stir it. Add the pastina and kale, and stir a little more. Re-cover, and continue cooking on high for another 3-4 hours, or until chicken is done.

If you serve it as soon as it’s done cooking, it will have a soup-like consistency. If that’s what you like, have at it. If you put it in the fridge for a day or so, or freeze it, it will thicken up considerably, like in the above photo. See, the pasta absorbs water. I personally prefer a thicker stew, but that’s just me. You can thin it out with more broth or even some water if you want.

It’s also wise to check the seasoning right before you serve it. I always like to add more rosemary at the last minute to give it a little bite.

Okay folks – happy slurping!

Warm Winter Vegetable Salad

In Vegetables on January 28, 2010 at 5:36 pm

I can see my reflection in the balsamic reduction!

I do love vegetables, really I do! But I tend to fall into the asparagus-peas-broccoli rut, and it gets  a bit old. I mean, yeah, they’re available pretty much all year in some form or another, they’re usually pretty popular, but I don’t know – I like to keep things interesting, and the vegetable dish is where I always fall short. Lately I’ve been keeping an eye out for new veg recipes, trying to get out of my SOS comfort zone. My local green market has all this beautiful produce, but I don’t know what to do with it! I really want to start doing some new things.

I came across Bitchincamero and this gorgeous picture of a roasted salad. Yes! A roasted salad. Great idea! It has rutabaga, and leeks, and a bunch of stuff I don’t normally use. I was so excited! This was exactly what I’ve been looking for! Tonight’s dinner, I thought to myself.

Well, I did make it and it was delicious. Problem is, I didn’t have time to run out and get all these new ingredients, so I ended up using the same old standbys I always do. So it wasn’t the culinary adventure I was hoping for. But it was still delicious! Mr. Gorilla even went back for seconds – of vegetables! His mother would be so proud! I can’t wait to try this one again with the proper ingredients. Here’s my version – the original can be found on the link.

This is before roasting - looks good enough to eat already! The potatoes would be crunchy, though.

Warm Winter Vegetable Salad

Adapted from BitchinCamero

Ingredients:

4-6 petite red potatoes, diced

3 carrots, scrubbed and diced

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, ends removed and halved

1/2 Vidalia onion, wedged and sliced

2 cups kale, rinsed and torn

3 slices thick, center cut applewood smoked bacon, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. coarse salt

freshly ground pepper

2 teaspoons ground thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1/2 lb. whole wheat orzo

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375° while you prep your vegetables. Toss the cut vegetables with the bacon, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme and rosemary and place in a big casserole dish. Roast in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. The vegetables are done when they’re tender and slightly browned or caramelized around the edges. (This actually took closer to 40 minutes for me – I guess I didn’t cut my stuff small enough. I suck.)

While the vegetables roast, cook your orzo according to package directions. You’ll want to make sure it stays al dente. After you drain the orzo, rinse it with cold water in a colander to stop it cooking. (This I failed to do, and my orzo stuck together in one huge clump while I was waiting for my veggies to finish. Luckily, it stirred out fine, but yeah, I suck again.)

Place the balsamic vinegar in a small pot and cook over low heat until it reduces by about half – 10 minutes or so. (Again, it took longer for me. Maybe my stove is just stupid. And the fumes from a balsamic reduction make my dog cower under her bed and roll on the carpet. Weird.)

When the vegetables are done, discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs and toss the orzo into the casserole dish and stir everything until well-combined and the pasta is slightly coated with the oil from the pan. (I didn’t have fresh thyme, obviously, but I did have fresh rosemary. As stated in previous posts, I am a rosemary fiend. Instead of putting the sprig in whole, I stripped off the needles and just made them part of the salad. )

Serve and drizzle with some of the balsamic reduction. (This I did. And I only spilled a little bit.)

So, yeah, folks! If I was able to pull it off despite my lack of preparation and motor control, you can too! Thanks to BitchinCamero for a great recipe. Really, try this one – even non-vegetable-eaters like it because the medley of flavors is so balanced and warm and earthy, you forget it’s all veg. And if you leave out the bacon, voila! Vegetarian. Simple.

Ignore this: WBGWH4AB8XFN

BlogCatalog

In Uncategorized on January 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm

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Nanaimo Bars for the Daring Baker’s Challenge

In Daring Baker's Challenges, sweets on January 27, 2010 at 4:06 pm

Sweet, sweet calories. Be still my hips!

Okay – I mentioned a few days ago that I had joined the Daring Kitchen, remember? Well, I’ve completed my first Daring Bakers Challenge, and here it is!

These are Nanaimo Bars – I had never heard of them before, but apparently they’re like, Canada’s national dessert. One of the ingredients is graham cracker crumbs, and being Daring Bakers, our assignment was to make said crumbs from scratch. What? Yes. From scratch. For crumbs. More on that later.

First, allow me to wax poetic about these bars. I’m a big fan of Canada – socialized medicine, friendly people, grizzly bears, Vancouver, and all that. But I soooo wish I had never heard of these bars! They are so very addictive! And they freeze well, and you don’t even have to defrost them to eat them because they don’t freeze solid. So they just sit in your freezer, and any time you get the slightest munchie pang, there they are, ready to add another 3000 calories to your count for the day. Yes, 3000. At least, that’s the rumor flying on the DB forums. I sorely hope it isn’t true, although I can really see how they could be. And it makes me sad. They are delicious.

They take a long time to make, in a way, because there’s a lot of waiting for things to cool. The actual steps don’t take long, but this is not a last-minute whip-up desert. It can, however, be made gluten-free, so those of you with celiac issues can get just as fat as the rest of us.

Tips:

1. It is VITALLY important that you let each layer cool COMPLETELY before adding the next. If you don’t, the layers will all mush together and be very difficult to work with.

2. When it’s time to cut the finished bars, try nuking them for 15-20 seconds. I did not, and I actually broke a sweat trying to get a knife through them.

3. DO NOT, under ANY circumstances, give more than one of these to any child under 12 (can you say sugar high?). If your teenager eats more than one at a time, he or she is either smoking pot or playing World of Warcraft. Either way, you need to deal with the situation.

Here’s the sacred text:

Recipe from here.

Nanaimo Bars
Ingredients:

For Nanaimo Bars — Bottom Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup (50 g) (1.8 ounces) Granulated Sugar
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Large Egg, Beaten
1 1/4 cups (300 mL) (160 g) (5.6 ounces) Gluten Free (or not) Graham Wafer Crumbs (See next recipe)
1/2 cup (55 g) (1.9 ounces) Almonds (Any type, Finely chopped)
1 cup (130 g) (4.5 ounces) Coconut (Shredded, sweetened or unsweetened)

For Nanaimo Bars — Middle Layer
1/2 cup (115 g) (4 ounces) Unsalted Butter
2 tablespoons and 2 teaspoons (40 mL) Heavy Cream
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted.)
2 cups (254 g) (8.9 ounces) Icing Sugar

For Nanaimo Bars — Top Layer
4 ounces (115 g) Semi-sweet chocolate
2 tablespoons (28 g) (1 ounce) Unsalted Butter

Directions:
1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.
2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, pour over middle layer and chill.

If you are feeling ambitious, try making the graham crackers from scratch. The recipe makes way more than you’ll need for the crumbs, so you can keep them tightly sealed for about two weeks as munchies. They are much better for you than the nanaimo bars.

Some Tips:

1. The dough is VERY sticky – your best bet is to roll it out onto parchment, then just transfer the whole shebang onto the baking sheet.

2. If you slightly undercook them, they turn out like chewy delicious cookies instead of crispy crackers. I mean, you need crispy crackers for the nanaimo bar recipe, but you can make the rest chewy if you’d like. It’s a matter of taste – I preferred the crispy, Mr. Gorilla liked the chewy.

Oops! I took a bite of the model!

The recipe is for gluten-free crackers, but I don’t have all those fancy flours, so I just used regular all-purpose. If you do the same, use 2 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons of it.

Recipe adapted from this one.

For Gluten-Free Graham Wafers
Ingredients
1 cup (138 g) (4.9 ounces) Sweet rice flour (also known as glutinous rice flour)
3/4 cup (100 g) (3.5 ounces) Tapioca Starch/Flour
1/2 cup (65 g) (2.3 ounces) Sorghum Flour
1 cup (200 g) (7.1 ounces) Dark Brown Sugar, Lightly packed
1 teaspoon (5 mL) Baking soda
3/4 teaspoon (4 mL ) Kosher Salt
7 tablespoons (100 g) (3 ½ ounces) Unsalted Butter (Cut into 1-inch cubes and frozen)
1/3 cup (80 mL) Honey, Mild-flavoured such as clover.
5 tablespoons (75 mL) Whole Milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) Pure Vanilla Extract

Directions:
1. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the flours, brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Pulse on low to incorporate. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the mixture is the consistency of a coarse meal. If making by hand, combine aforementioned dry ingredients with a whisk, then cut in butter until you have a coarse meal. No chunks of butter should be visible.
2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the honey, milk and vanilla. Add to the flour mixture until the dough barely comes together. It will be very soft and sticky.
3. Turn the dough onto a surface well-floured with sweet rice flour and pat the dough into a rectangle about 1 inch thick. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 2 hours, or overnight.
4. Divide the dough in half and return one half to the refrigerator. Sift an even layer of sweet rice flour onto the work surface and roll the dough into a long rectangle, about 1/8 inch thick. The dough will be quite sticky, so flour as necessary. Cut into 4 by 4 inch squares. Gather the scraps together and set aside. Place wafers on one or two parchment-lined baking sheets. Chill until firm, about 30 to 45 minutes. Repeat with the second batch of dough.
5. Adjust the rack to the upper and lower positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).
6. Gather the scraps together into a ball, chill until firm, and reroll. Dust the surface with more sweet rice flour and roll out the dough to get a couple more wafers.
7. Prick the wafers with toothpick or fork, not all the way through, in two or more rows.
8. Bake for 25 minutes, until browned and slightly firm to the touch, rotating sheets halfway through to ensure even baking. Might take less, and the starting location of each sheet may determine its required time. The ones that started on the bottom browned faster.

So, there ya have it, folks! My first DB Challenge! How’d I do?

I also wanted to mention that today is my puppy’s 1st birthday, so I’ll be posting a recipe for a doggie birthday cake within the next few days. Gotta have cake!

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