The Glory of Crisps: The Fruit Dessert for Everyone

April 29, 2009

crispsFinding a good dessert for just the two of us can be a challenge.  Most make just too much for two people.  And what about single people.  When I was single, I had no business baking a whole cake and eating it by myself.  Which is one of the reasons I love crisps.

Crisps are wonderful. You can make a small amount or a big amount.  I usually use a muffin pan.  And you can make it around whatever fruit is in season.  This week I made up several different crisps with whatever fruit looked good at the grocery store – blackberry, apple, pear, cherry and peach.  If you just want to make single servings, you can use a oven-safe custard cup or even a muffin pan.

I used a muffin pan and did a different fruit in each cup.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place fruit into cups.  For pears, apples and peaches, that’s about a half a fruit sliced.

Squeeze lemon juice over fruit.  Top each cup with –

1 t. brown sugar
1 T. oatmeal
1/2 T. chopped nuts (I like walnuts or pecans)
1 thin slice of butter
Pinch of cinnamon

Bake for about 20 minutes  crisps-in-muffin-tin

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Irish Soda Bread

April 27, 2009

irish-soda-breadIt’s raining today.  A lot.  And it brings back memories of a wonderful, but rainy, week spent in Ireland.  During this trip, I learned how important a fulfilling breakfast is to combating cold and damp.  Since I was planning on an afternoon of digging and planting in between the showers, I decided to bake one of my favorite discoveries from that trip in Ireland.

Irish soda bread is one of those earthy, dense breads with a crunchy crust that I enjoy with butter and jam.  As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a big white bread fan (sourdough being the exception).  Just one slice will get you through your work and it goes great with a hot drink to relax with when you’re done.  This is a low fat version I tried this morning.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Mix together:
1 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
2 2/12 T brown sugar

Cut into the dry mixture:
2 T. butter

In a separate bowl, combine:
1 egg white, beaten until frothy
1 c. buttermilk
1 c. raisins or currants

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix.  Turn onto a floured board and knead about 10 times.  Shape into a 9″ round and place on a greased baking.  Make a cross in the top of the dough with a sharp knife.

Bake 45 minutes.


7 Grain Pancakes

April 26, 2009

7-grain-pancakes

A few years ago I began having problems with eating things like pasta, pancakes, pizza and sweets.  After eating these items I would feel like I had drunk too much caffeine.  I’d be hungry shortly after eating, even if I’d partaken in a large portion.  I visited the doctor and he said my symptoms didn’t quite sound like hypoglycemia or a food allergy.  To remedy the situation I avoided the foods that made me feel bad.  I also found that by ingesting protein throughout the day, usually milk, I felt better.  After avoiding these foods for several years I was able to begin eating them in small quantities.  I could eat spaghetti as a side but not as a main course.  Fast forward to today.  I’m able to eat pizza or pasta as an entree but I can’t do it every day.  Pancakes have been an exception though.  It must be the combination of sugar and the refined wheat.  A few months ago we were visiting Matt and Alicia (Melissa’s sister and brother in law) and Alicia served pancakes using a mix from Paul’s Grains.  I felt fine after eating the pancakes, so upon returning home, I looked up Paul’s Grains and discovered their products could be purchased online.  I finally ordered some flour last week and made my first batch of pancakes today.  They were delicious and I felt fine after eating them!  The recipe I used was out of Michael Ruhlman’s new book, Ratio.  The recipe called for all purpose flour, I used Paul’s 7 Grain flour, so I ended up using more liquid to compensate.  Ruhlman’s book mostly uses weight to measure ingredients, which I’m liking more and more.  The base ratio is: 2 part liquid, 1 part egg, 1/2 part butter and 2 parts flour.  This is my adaptation.

Wet Ingredients:

  • 4.5 oz buttermilk
  • 8.5 oz skim milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 oz butter (1/2 stick), melted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dry Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Paul’s 7 grain flour or all purpose flour (1-1/3 to 1-1/2 cups)
  • 2 tablespoons raw sugar (turbinado)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

Combine dry and wet ingredients in separate mixing bowls.  Then combine the wet and dry mixes together, stirring until smooth.  Cook the pancakes over medium heat on a greased skillet.

By Kenton


Baking in a Toaster Oven

April 25, 2009
Toaster Oven Muffins

Toaster Oven Muffins

I baked the funniest looking muffins the other day and I have to share the pictures.  The pictures may not do them justice, but if you imagine gold smurfs you’ll have a good idea of what these looked like.

Here’s the back story.  A few posts ago I mentioned that Kent had converted our oven into a pizza oven with layers of fire bricks.  I’ve been leaving them in the oven in hopes of more pizza or maybe calzone.  Since this blog is about learning I thought I’d use this time to see how our toaster would do in baking muffins.  It is a convection toaster oven.

I decided to use up two muffins mixes I had on hand.  One, because the muffins pans that would fit into the toaster oven only had room for 6 muffins or were the tiny muffin kind.  Two, I was still in a “experimenting” mood and I knew that a commercial mix would yield more consistent results.

Toaster muffins 2

Toaster muffins 2

The result – golden smurf muffins.  Both sized muffin pans yielded muffins that rose to a high point and spread out to an almost mushroom-like appearance. Then there is the lean.  This is where the convection oven part comes into play.  The air of the convection most definitely comes from the left side of the oven and caused the lean as well as one-sided browning.

Lesson learned.  And by the way, I’m still waiting for more pizza.  And for Kent to post on his pizza making.


Kale Bacon and Eggs

April 21, 2009

kale_bacon_eggs

I’ve been trying to get better about cooking during the week. It hard because we’re usually hungry when we get home, and a bowl of cereal quickly takes care of the pangs. I know, I know, I should eat a snack around 3:00 or 4:00. Usually I cook on weekends and try to make enough so we have leftovers for the week. The past couple weekends have been spent with family, so I haven’t had a chance to cook and subsequently we have no leftovers. True to form I came home this afternoon and had a small bowl of cereal. I was going to have another but decided to make an attempt at throwing something together. We’ve got some cottage bacon we need to get rid of, and I purchased some kale the other day from the grocery store. What came out was actually pretty tasty. I overcooked the egg and added a bit too much salt, not taking into account the salty garnishes. But overall we were pleased and it was more satisfying than a second bowl of cereal.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 3 oz of bacon, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth or dry white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 pound kale, including stems, roughly chopped
  • 2 large eggs, fried
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

Directions:

You need a large frying pan with lid. Saute bacon on medium with a bit of oil till crispy. Remove bacon from oil and set aside. Turn up heat a bit and add pepper flakes and garlic. Stir garlic once or twice and deglaze the pan with vermouth. Add chicken stock and kale stems. Cover and let the stems cook for a couple minutes, then add the kale leaves. Cover, cook at a medium simmer, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender. While the kale is cooking fry the eggs. To serve, mound kale on a plate, garnish with Parmesan cheese, bacon and top with an egg. Should feed two.

By Kenton


The Great Shake Experiment Part Deux

April 19, 2009

sour-cherry-shakeNot to be deterred from my failed first shake with no ice cream experiment, I persevere.  The consistency was right on target so I’m keeping the frozen bananas.  The carob was too strong so I’m switching to fruit.  Drat!  I was really looking forward to inventing the next great carob something-or-other.

Fortunately, I have some great frozen cherries (courtesy of my mom – Thanks Mom!).  Unfortunately, we ran out of honey so I turned to raw sugar.  Truth be told I’ve been wanting to play with the raw sugar since Kent brought it home.  This was just the opportunity I’d been looking for–don’t tell Kent.

Experiment 2

Cherry Banana Shake
Take One

Blend:

2 frozen bananas
1 c. frozen sour cherries
1 c. nonfat dry milk
3 T raw sugar
3/4 c ice water
1/2 t vanilla

Pros:  Great consistency again.  Color was okay.  Not great.  Pink but not a bright pink.  Very filling – one glass filled me up.

Cons:  Very very rich.  Too rich for Kent.  He added skim milk to tone it down.  I drank my straight.

Discussions:  Okay, okay, maybe it’s time to reduce the dry milk.  I don’t want to add more water because that might mess with the consistency which is the only thing these shakes have had right.

Trial Take

Okay, okay.  I guess it’s time to cut the amount of nonfat dry milk.  And the sweetener.

Blend:

2 frozen bananas
1 c. frozen sour cherries
2/3 c. dry milk
1/2 t vanilla
3/4 c. ice water

Pros:  The good consistency is holding.  Color is much much better.  The sour cherry flavor is stronger and more flavoricious. There is a difference of opinion about the richness.  My sister and I agree that the richness level was good.  It was still a bit much for Kent who added skim milk to it.

Cons:  Grainy.  It’s been grainy all along but I was wanting this to be a simple “just put everything in and blend” kind of thing.  Looks like I’ll need to premix the nonfat milk and water.

Next time:  Fix the graininess.  And do I dare combine the two experiments?  A Cherry Carob Banana Extravaganza?!?!


Kale with Purple Majesty Potatoes

April 15, 2009

kale_blue_potatoes

We picked up our first order of the Spring from the Nebraska Food Cooperative last Thursday. Yesterday I finally got around to using some of our purchases. Using The Flavor Bible I looked up kale. I decided to use the following suggested ingredients in the dish: potatoes, onion, red pepper flakes, garlic, pork, chicken stock. The dish turned out great as far as taste, but it’s not the most appetizing thing to look at. The potatoes were a little overdone and the bacon wasn’t crisp. But I’ve got some ideas on how to rectify that, which I’ll list at the end of this post.

First I’d like to introduce the local fair I used to create this dish.

cottage_bacon

The Cottage Bacon was purchased from Harvest Valley Foods. Cottage bacon is made from the shoulder of the pig, not from the sides or belly like most bacon. As a result the cottage bacon is more lean. The bacon from Harvest Valley Foods had a nice smoky flavor and not too salty.

purple_potatoes

The potatoes we didn’t order, they were free! Nebraska Specialty Produce was at Jane’s Benson Health Market, our pickup place for NFC, giving them away. Apparently they had a few potatoes left over from last year. They had three varieties: Bintje, Purple Majesty and Laratte Fingerling. We chose to go with the Purple Majesty, instead of a mixed bag. We really liked the potatoes they gave us, and we’ll purchase some more when they have a new crop this year. Both Bob and Tanner Lemon seemed like real nice people. They don’t have a website at the moment, but they can be reached at rlemon [at] curtis-ne [dot] com.

kale_cutting_celery

The kale was purchased from Community Crops. The kale is on the left in the picture and cutting celery on the right. I made pesto out of the cutting celery, which I’ll post about at a later date. The kale was flavorful, clean, and the stems small enough to eat. The only thing I didn’t like about the kale was the size of the bunch, 3-3/4 oz. I just have to remember to purchase more than one bunch next time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound of potatoes, cubed
  • 6-8 oz of kale, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 oz cottage bacon, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Precook potatoes until they are almost soft all the way through, drain, and set aside. Add the bacon to a large frying pan, with the oil, over medium low heat. Slowly cook the bacon to release the fat. Once the fat has rendered as much as it’s going to, turn up the heat and add the onion and red pepper flakes. Saute the onion until it’s translucent, then add the garlic. Stir the garlic until it releases it’s aroma and add the chicken stock. Mix in the potatoes and kale, reduce the heat and cover. Cook until kale is tender. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

As I mentioned before I wasn’t completely happy with the way this dish turned out. Next time I try this I’m going to braise the kale with the chicken stock in a separate pan. Then at the end, briefly toss the potatoes in the bacon, garlic, onion, oil mixture; add the soft kale and warm through. That way hopefully the bacon will be crispy and the potatoes won’t be too soft.

By Kenton