Monday, December 31, 2007

pecan pie bars

this recipe comes from my neighbor back home, who is an excellent baker. it's fairly easy to put together and is rich, gooey and nutty. the recipe calls for brickle chips, which can be hard to find. i found mine at meijer after striking out at kroger. heath brand makes both toffee bits and chocolate toffee bits. i've never tried the chocolate ones, but i can't imagine it would be bad.

i like to use a little trick with tin foil to make cutting easier. before baking, line the pan with tin foil, using a long piece of foil running the long way in the pan. make sure the foil comes up to and covers the short sides of the pan. now take a second piece of foil and lay it across the pan the other way, so that the long sides of the pan are covered in foil. when the pecan bars are completely cool, lift them out of the pan with the foil. this helps to avoid making a mess with cutting and then scooping the fragile bars out of the pan. the same trick works really well with brownies.

pecan pie bars

2 c flour
1/2 c confectioners sugar
1 c cold butter

14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 8 oz. package of brickle chips
1 c chopped pecansA

cut butter into flour until course, press firmly into 9" x 13" pan. bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

beat egg, milk, vanilla, and then stir in pecans and brickle chips. spread over crust. bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes. cool completely and cut into 1 inch squares.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

black bean stew over coconut lime rice

i'm really struggling to be inspired to cook winter food. flipping through magazines and cookbooks, the only recipes that are jumping out at me are ones involving fresh sweet corn, strawberries and summer tomatoes. digging deep, i came up with this recipe tonight:

black bean stew over coconut lime rice

for the black bean stew:
2 tbs olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped fine
large handful of yellow baby carrots
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cans black beans (30 oz total)
half a pound of frozen corn
large can of stewed tomatoes

sweat the onion, carrots and garlic in the olive oil over medium heat in a stock pot until onion is soft. add seasonings and cook for a few minutes more. enjoy lovely aroma of onions and cumin. add stock, corn and one can of rinsed black beans. bring to a simmer. in a mixing bowl with a stick blender (or in a food processor) puree the tomatoes and second can of rinsed black beans. add tomato mixture to pot and simmer on low about 20 minutes.

for the coconut lime rice:
1 1/2 c basmati rice
14 oz can of lite coconut milk
1 1/4 c water
1 tbs sugar
juice of one lime
2 tsp salt
1/8 c chopped cilantro

incorporate all ingredients except cilantro in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. reduce heat and simmer until all liquid has been absorbed, about 25 minutes. fluff rice with a fork and mix in cilantro.

this is really a stick-to-your-ribs meal. and it's fairly balanced nutritionally speaking, which is important post holidays. the slight sweetness of the rice is a nice balance to the acid and heat in the stew. if you wanted to go light on the carbs, skip the rice all together and add 4 cups of veggie stock to convert the stew into a soup.

*update: having this left over, i served the stew over plain white rice with a dollop of sour cream. it was better than the coconut rice!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

cajun cashews

this recipe was given to me by a colleague's wife and i quickly adopted it as my holiday gift to family and friends. this year i made 20 pounds! these are easy to put together, the recipe can be adjusted to your heat preference and they are highly addictive. you'll need raw cashews. they can be found at trader joe's (best value), whole foods (organic) or krema nuts (big, beautiful and expensive).

cajun cashews

2 tbs butter
2 tbs red wine vinegar
2 tbs tabasco or other hot sauce
1 tbs cayenne pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp salt
4 cups raw cashews

preheat oven to 350 degrees. incorporate all ingredients except cashews in a saucepan on medium heat. when butter is melted and mixture begins to simmer, remove from heat and pour in cashews. stir until cashews are completely coated. pour cashews onto a foil lined jelly roll pan and bake for about 12 minutes or until nuts begin to turn golden brown. let cool for 5 minutes on pan and then scrape into mixing bowl and toss.

this year i used frank's red hot sauce but if you wanted more heat you could use something from cajohn's. you can also use more or less cayenne pepper to adjust the heat level. they taste great with my favorite beer.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

cocktail sauce, with a side of shrimp

having a craving for shrimp cocktail got me to thinking, why buy nice shrimp and then serve it with crummy jarred cocktail sauce? so i mixed up a batch of my own. i like the extra heat of a lot of horseradish and the lime goes above and beyond the average lemon in standard recipes.

cocktail sauce

1 cup chili sauce
juice of 1 lime
3 tbs horseradish
1 tbs finely chopped cilantro

mix ingredients and refrigerate. serve with shrimp. congratulate yourself on not succumbing to the lure of jarred cocktail sauce.

Friday, December 7, 2007

carrot cake pancakes

after eating these beauties in boston, i just couldn't get the idea of carrot cake pancakes out of my head. today i gave it a shot and i think they came out pretty well. the next time i make these i think i'd sweeten the cream cheese a bit more.

carrot cake pancakes

2 eggs
1 c milk
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 c brown sugar
2 c flour
2 tbs baking powder
1 tbs baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 c shredded carrots

maple cream cheese:
1/2 block cream cheese
1 tbs maple syrup
2 tbs chopped pecans

chopped pecans

beat eggs, milk,vanilla extract and oil together. in a separate larger mixing bowl combine sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. mix in egg mixture. mix in shredded carrots (i used orange and yellow carrots). allow mixture to sit for 15 minutes. cook on a griddle at medium heat. cook slowly to allow the pancakes time to puff up and carrots time to cook. combine cream cheese, maple syrup and pecans. top pancakes with maple cream cheese, garnish with chopped pecans.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

angry gods of baking: 2, me: 0

i've had 2 baking disasters in 2 days. and if i didn't really love to eat baked goods, i'd probably just give it up for good.

the first foul up was with a dessert i really had high hopes for. i attempted to make lamingtons and although they did end up tasting pretty good, they were a frustrating mess to make and were just plain ugly. for those who haven't encountered the lamington, it's basically cubes of pound cake dipped in chocolate icing and then covered in coconut. sounds great, right? as usual, i have only myself to blame for this baking flub. i mistakenly bought self rising flour (why does this product even exist?!?) and then foolishly substituted it for the standard flour and baking soda the recipe called for. "it should be fine..." yeah right! my second flub was some how missing the "refrigerate cake for a few hours to overnight before icing." the flour substitution resulted in a very (way too) fluffy pound cake. a pound cake that when cut into cubes fell apart easily and then when i attempted to cover it in chocolate icing, fell apart even more. additionally by the time i got to the 'covering them with coconut' step, the icing had dried and the coconut wasn't sticking. so here i am, surrounded by a mess covering every square inch of my kitchen, icing, pound cake crumbs and coconut everywhere, attempting to forcefully stick coconut to lambingtons that just aren't having it. at this point, i'm close to loosing my temper (did i mention that my lack of patience is probably at the root of my baking issues?) setting aesthetics aside, i did end up with a reasonable reproduction of the lamington and because we were hanging out with good friends that night (the kind that don't judge you for baking screw ups), we ate them anyway. the one consolation was that they did taste good.

"i think i'm loosing my mind" goof up number two: i totally mess up making my signature cookie. first i beat the sugar and butter together and observed: "it's not really getting fluffy like it should... whatever, pour the flour in!" a few steps later: "oh crap, i didn't add the eggs. that's why it wasn't fluffy." so i add the eggs late in the game and proceed to incorporate the rest of the ingredients (almost) and put scoops of dough onto the sheets and then into the oven. 2 minutes into baking, i realize "i forgot the oatmeal!" so i pull the melty cookie dough out of the oven, put it back into the mixing bowl, add the oatmeal and then re-scoop it back onto the sheets. i baked them anyway and although they were edible, they spread out way too much and tasted just a bit off. plus they took an extra 5 minutes to cook. jeeze!

i'm going to take a hiatus from baking for a while. who knows how bad things could get if i keep at it.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

creamy potato yam soup

a rich and hearty potato soup is the perfect warm up after raking those leaves you've been putting off for the last couple of weeks. i often make this on a sunday night and take it for lunch all week. and as far as creamy soups go, it's pretty light. no heavy cream or inordinate amounts of butter. unless you want it that way.

creamy potato yam soup

1 medium onion, diced
2 tbs butter
2 medium potatoes
3 medium yams
4 -5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1/8 c chopped parsley
1/2 tsp ground thyme
1/2 tsp celery salt
salt & pepper to taste
1 1/2 c milk
1 tbs flour

in stockpot, cook onions and butter until soft. peel potatoes and yams, then cube. add potatoes, yams, stock (less for thicker soup, more for thinner) and seasonings to stockpot. simmer for 30 minutes, or until potatoes and yams are tender. remove from heat. mix flour into milk and add to soup. with a stick blender, puree. i like to leave some chunks of potato & yam. bring to a simmer until thickened.