Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Did You Know...

How easy it is to make your own whipped cream? I had no idea. I feel embarrased admitting that, because it identifies me as part of the generation of convenience foods. I think I grew up with a better awareness of where food comes from than most kids, but this was one of those things that slipped under the radar. But last week, I took out my whisk attachment, poured some heavy cream into my trusty stand mixer, added a pinch of salt, and watched it turn into this:

It was really neat to watch. I was tempted to keep letting it go and watch it make butter!


Even more glorious when there is homemade chocolate cheesecake under it.

One Sauce, Many Uses

I made this black bean sauce as an accompainiment for a Grilled Lime Chicken recipe I wanted to try, but I've found it handy for other uses as well. Like tucked into soft tacos alongside browned ground beef and the other usual suspects. Or in my taco soup, which gave it a darker color but a thicker texture and interesting taste.

Having an immersion blender was nice in making this. I rarely use that thing, but I'm always glad to have it when I need it!

The chicken, along with grilled red onions and new potatoes.

I love it when I can make something once and use it for lots of different meals!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Meal of Sin

We tend to eat pretty healthy, but sometimes, you just gotta live. When Mike's mom brought us some Creamy White potatoes from Hastings, which have a somewhat legendary status in his family, I knew that this was one of his times. We decided to make REAL french fries - none of that baked-in-the-oven junk. And since we were already on the slippery slope, we decided to have hamburgers, too! Awwwwwwww yeah!

Mike set up the oil and basket for frying and set to work.

Tell me that doesn't make your mouth water!
I decided to try to offset our bad-ness a little with some broccoli. Really it was just to alleviate our guilt a little.

Fresh out of the oil....[drool]

We thoroughly enjoyed our Meal of Sin, but we had three furry children right under our noses the whole time:

Sophie caught mid-chew enjoying a french fry. This facial expression slays me!

Hoping daddy will share the wealth, too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Panko-Breaded Chicken Fingers

I picked up some panko breadcrumbs impulsively on my last trip to the Fresh Market. Unfortunately, I realized that I had no idea how to use them. Of course, I could always use them in place of regular breadcrumbs, but I hardly ever use those, either. So after some searching on the internet, I came up with this recipe. The panko breadcrumbs were a little different from regular breadcrumbs - the strips were crispy and delicious, and Mike ate them with much gusto. I whipped up a honey-mustard sauce to go with them, along with a green salad with the last of the greens from the garden. If anyone has any other panko recipes, please feel free to share them, because this was pretty much it!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fresh Berry Tarts, Part Trois

Okay, I admit it: I am actually a little embarassed that I have made the SAME recipe three times in one week. I have never done anything like this before! I even had to look up what the French word for 'three' is for the title of this post! Really, I can't believe I'm writing about this recipe again! But I did do something a little different this time - instead of bothering with making my own glaze, I just picked up some strawberry glaze from the produce section of Publix. They had it right next to the strawberries (clever marketing ploy - which I totally fell for!)

All I did was glop it on top, but when I make this recipe again (and it WILL be awhile!) I will probably warm it up slightly to make it a little prettier and cover the berries better. Using the store-bought glaze held everything together nicely. I made these for a meeting at the family business, and there were no transportation problems whatsoever - I don't even think I lost one berry!

For some reason, all the diners thought these were cherry. I guess the glaze is a little cherry-ish, in a fake kinda way. But everyone seemed to enjoy them.
We now return to our regularly scheduled, more varied programming. Even I'm getting a little tired of looking at tart pictures!

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Fresh Berry Tarts, Part Deux

I made the Fresh Berry Tarts again for a "Welcome Matt" party we had on Thursday for our church's new music director (whose name just happens to be Matt - imagine that!). This time I picked up some fresh blackberries, which made them even prettier than the frozen ones. They were a big hit! They came out so beautiful, I just had to share a few pictures:

Oven-Crisp Black Bean and Corn Flautas

I've been on a quest for some tasty meatless recipes, and this recipe seemed to fit the bill. Mike and I both love black beans!

The recipe tasted good, but wrapping the black bean mixture in the corn tortillas didn't go so well, as you can see. Once they baked in the oven, the tortillas flaked out on me!
I posted this recipe so my dear readers could take a look at it and tell me if there's anything different I can try. Mike suggested brushing the tortillas with oil, whaddya think?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream

After making the Fresh Berry Tarts from the previous post, I had a lot of sliced, macerated strawberries left over and nothing to do with them...well, I fixed that problem by making strawberry ice cream! I just prepared the sweet cream base and threw in the strawberries that I had used to make the topping for the tarts, then let the ice cream maker do the rest. I know I added more berries than the recipe calls for, but I didn't think I added enough to make the freezer overflow. I was wrong. That was a fun clean-up, but the ice cream was good. I mean, LOOK at that picture!

Monday, April 07, 2008

Fresh Berry Tarts

I tore this recipe out of my Penzey's catalog a long time ago - long enough ago that I don't remember exactly when and the recipe isn't on their website anymore. The berry harvest was incredibly disappointing last year, so if I did have this recipe last year, I didn't get to use it. This year, however, the strawberries have hit the stores just how I like them - cheap and sweet - so I decided to give this recipe a try. It features a crust that is similar to sugar cookie dough, and although it is a bit complicated, the result was so pretty and elegant that it was worth it:

The recipe calls for rolling out the dough and cutting it with a biscuit cutter, but the only thing I had was a wide-mouthed jar, which I believe was not quite as wide. But that worked out perfectly, because about halfway through baking them I realized that I could use my mini-muffin pans rather than the standard-size the recipe calls for, which made things go a LOT faster. You can see in the picture below the size difference:

Like I said, this recipe took some time to make: you have to mix and chill the dough, then roll it out and cut the circles of dough, drop the circles into the pan, top with the filling (cream cheese-based), bake, arrange the berries on top, make the berry topping, and drizzle that on top...whew! However, no part of the directions is incredibly complicated, and you can work on one part of the recipe while you're waiting for other parts to chill or bake. I used mostly strawberries for the top, because that's what I had fresh. The other berries are from the frozen medley that I mentioned in my last post, and as you can see they look fresh.

These tarts were SO good! I plan on making more for a get-together we're hosting Thursday. I recommend making these the day before you plan serving them, because they get even better when they sit in the fridge overnight!
Playing Catch-Up

WOW I have been a bad blogger lately! Sorry 'bout that. It's just that by the end of a long day, I don't have a whole lot of brain power to write my usual clever prose. This post has been in the works since we bought a ham on sale after Easter. First, Mike smoked it on the Big Green Egg, which we enjoyed with mashed potatoes.

Mike LOVES ham....really, really loves it. He never says "ham," he says "haaaaaaaaaaaaam," complete with a dreamy look in his eye. Part of the reason why is because of the LEFTOVERS:

First up, ham buns. They feature swiss cheese, with dijon mustard and poppy seeds. These were done on brown-and-serve dinner rolls, because I had some in the freezer that needed to be used, but I usually do them on hamburger buns. They make great appetizers on mini buns. And great lunches for Mike the next day :)

Next up, White Cheddar Scalloped Potatoes. This was a new recipe from Taste of Home, and since I had a LOT of ham leftover, I was glad this recipe calls for a full 3 and a half cups. This recipe was a lot of work - slice the potatoes, chop the onion and ham, shred the cheese...not something I'd make all the time, but it was so worth it!


I decided to make this into a breakfast-for-dinner, along with fruit salad and what has quickly become my favorite pancake recipe, Blueberry-Buttermilk Pancakes. Unfortunately, the casserole and the pancakes weren't done at the same time, but it was still delicious.

As an aside, the berries I used were a new product, and I just had to say how good these berries were. It had a blend of strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, and they taste almost like fresh. I am totally addicted!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Dill, dill, and more dill...

My first attempt at growing dill in my greenhouse window didn't go so well, so I was very pleased that my second attempt on the porch has been a raging success. Maybe it's due to the constant vigil provided by Morgan the cat.
Here's the plant - you can see that it's so bushy, it looks like I cut practically nothing off of it - but really I cut it nearly in half! Morgan was very interested in my snipping, as you can see :) I used the dill in two different recipes, Dill Roasted Salmon and Dill and Cheddar Beer Bread.

The Salmon cooked on a bed of dill. The recipe calls for smoked paprika, but in my last Penzey's order I got a sample of chipolte pepper, which is also smoky, so I put that on instead. The recipe also lists an optional Lemony-Dill mayo that can be served with the fish, but I skipped that part.

The Dill-Cheddar Beer Bread recipe intrigued me, because it lists lots of other interesting sounding varations on the basic recipe (Rosemary-Feta Beer Bread, anyone?) I cooked the bread in a cast-iron cornbread pan from Oma (Mike's German grandmother).

Below is the final product, along with a homemade salad (with greens that I grew!!) with homemade croutons.
The bread came out incredibly light and delicious, and the salmon had just the right amount of kick - I'm glad I didn't overdo it with the chipolte (as I am prone to do). I was concerned that simply cooking the fish on a bed of dill wouldn't impart enough flavor, especially with the skin still on, but it imparted a nice dill-y flavor. I also made a salad (with greens that I grew), and while I burned the homemade croutons on one side, I DID figure out a nice trick for making homemade croutons much easier - frozen bread! The only bread I had was in the freezer, so I just smeared the whole piece of bread with butter (I usually use olive oil, but hey, ya gotta have SOME fun!), then some garlic salt, then cut it up and popped it in the toaster oven. It made it very easy to cut the bread into perfect little cubes. Maybe that's how the restaurants do it!
Black Bean Burgers!

Last week, Mike and I went to a party where black bean burgers were served, along with hot dogs and hamburgers. While I would usually go straight for the meat, I guess I felt adventurous that night, because I tried one. was pretty good! It was Morningstar Brand's Spicy Black Bean burgers, and it had a little kick to it, which I especially enjoyed. I picked some up today, and while Mike had Zesty Grilled Ham (which I also like), he threw on a burger for me. He also grilled some corn, seasoned with butter and Penzey's Tuscan Sunset seasoning - my absolute favorite! I also wanted to show tonight's dinner because we had a salad with lettuce from the garden! That is so exhilarating for me - we ate something I GREW! Woo-hoo! I love it!