Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday Morning Kitchen Sink Frittata!

First thought:  I hate snow.  (After about a week of 40 degree weather, we're getting about six inches of snow.  ARGH.)

Second thought:  I really like cheese.  And eggs.  And sauteed vegetables.

So what if ... you combine those things?  Including the odds and ends in your fridge that aren't enough to make a proper recipe.  And the spinach that's about to become a science experiment in your refrigerator?  And those artisan cheese curds that you bought at the Farmers Market that were cool in theory but lack flavor otherwise?

That's how you come up with a Sunday Morning Kitchen Sink Frittata!  The exclamation point is extremely necessary.

This was instinctual, so there are no exact measurements ... just a sense of what would taste good.

Preheat oven to 400.
Grease pie tin, muffin tins or in my case - the scone pan my mama gave me for Christmas.  (I have not actually made scones yet, but I wanted individual servings that I could wrap up and freeze for meals throughout the week.)

Broccoli florets, rough chop (probably about one cup)
Cauliflower florets, rough chop (also about one cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
Button mushrooms, sliced (1/2 package)
Salt and pepper

Saute these together in a skillet with olive oil, until the mushrooms are lightly browned.  Wilt in handfuls of spinach (I had about 3/4 package of bagged spinach that I needed to use.)

6 eggs
splash of milk
1 T. dijon mustard (**totally optional)
more salt and pepper

While the veg cooks, whisk together six eggs with a splash of milk, mustard and salt and pepper.  When the vegetables are finished, fold them into the egg mixture.  This is where I added about a handful of the crappy artisan cheese curds I acquired recently. 

Spoon evenly into prepared dish.  Top with cheese - in my case, it was a handful of parmesan and some leftover Swiss cheese I had (about 1/4 c.).  Bake in oven for 25-30 minutes, until top is set and lightly browned. 

Currently, the leftover wedges are cooling on a rack upstairs.  I want to make sure they are totally cool and that the bottoms are not soggy so I can wrap them up individually and freeze them.  I'll let you know how they reheat.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Nothing says "love" like conversation hearts.  The sugar cookies are my grandma's recipe and the frosting is Alton Brown's Royal Icing.  The rest is pure snark.

And this one was suggested by my husband:

Inspired by this clip ...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cornmeal Pancakes

All I can really say about these are that they are quite tasty, but really not spectacular enough to make a repeat appearance in my kitchen.  Because Ryan loves Bisquick.  And pancakes aren't my favorite breakfast food in the world.

Having said all of this - this is a great, gluten-free alternative to a breakfast classic. 

Cornmeal Pancakes
adapted from The New York Times

1 1/2 cups fine or medium cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup milk, or more as needed
1 T. vegetable or olive oil, plus more for frying (**It will not surprise anyone that I used ... you guessed it - bacon grease.  I really need to break this habit.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Blueberries - optional (for me!)
Maple syrup and butter, for serving.

1. Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Combine the cornmeal, salt and 1 1/2 cups boiling water in a bowl and let it sit until the cornmeal absorbs the water and softens, 5 to 10 minutes.
2. Stir in the milk, a little at a time, until the batter is spreadable but still thick. Stir in oil and the vanilla.
3. Put a large skillet or griddle over medium heat. When a few drops of water dance on its surface, add a thin film of oil and let it become hot. Spoon out the batter, making any size pancakes you like. Cook until bubbles form on the top and burst and the underside is golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; turn and cook on the other side until golden.  (If you're going to add blueberries, do it after you've put the batter on the griddle.) Serve.

Yield: 4 servings (or two hungry Mahannahs.)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bacon Swiss Meatloaf

Let's have a moment, shall we?  This is where I tell you how much I absolutely, unequivocally ADORE bacon.  I think that I've always liked bacon, but it's only in my adulthood that I realize what a guilty pleasure bacon is.  I mean ... under standard definition - bacon is not good for you.  But oh, it tastes good.  And oh, does it make an ordinary dish feel spectacular.

Last year for my birthday, my friends the Swensons gave me a copy of Taste of Home's "Bacon."  You can only find it on newsstands and its chock full of recipes that feature ... you guessed it, bacon.  On a recent evening, mindful that a little bit of bacon goes a long way - I adapted their Bacon Swiss Meatloaf recipe to be decadent, but a little lighter on my waistline.

Is there anything more beautiful than an end piece of meatloaf?  Why yes - a piece of meatloaf that features bacon.

Bacon Swiss Meatloaf
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 egg
1/4 c. fat-free evaporated milk
1 1/2 c. shredded Swiss cheese, divided
1/2 c. crumbled cooked bacon, divided (I ended up using about 4 slices.)
1/2 c. Progresso Italian-style breadcrumbs (it's what I had on hand ... use whatever you have in your pantry)
1 tsp. garlic powder (to keep the vampires away)
1 1/2 lbs ground turkey

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Take a half sheet pan and spray with baking spray.  (Hint: Next time I'm going to put a baking rack on my cookie sheet to get the meatloaf up off of the pan and out of the grease this recipe produces.)

In a large bowl, combine egg, milk, 1 cup of Swiss cheese, half of the bacon, bread crumbs and garlic powder.  Mix together.  Add ground turkey over the mixture.  While thinking of a recent Ina Garten episode, I ended up using my fork to incorporate all these ingredients together.  (She was saying something about using a fork instead of your hands.  Point A - it keeps your hands cleaner, and point B - it keeps the meat from compacting and making a tougher meatloaf ... or in her case, she was making burgers.  But I digress.)  Dump onto your baking sheet and form it into a loaf-like shape.

Bake, uncovered, for one hour or until the meat is done.  Sprinkle remaining cheese and bacon.  Bake for 3-5 minutes longer or until cheese is melted.  Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

Usually, I eat meatloaf with mashed potatoes.  But as I made this, I had an "oh sh*t" moment when I realized that I only had one potato in the house and not enough green beans to make a proper side dish.  So, I punted and came up with this.  

Shel's Kitchen Sink Rice Pilaf

1/2 c. basmati rice, cooked
1/2 c. wild rice, cooked
2 stalks of celery, sliced
1/4 c. sliced baby carrots
1/4 c. green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 c. water or chicken broth
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. cooking oil/bacon grease ... whatever

I took my skillet and heated up a teaspoon of bacon grease.  I'd like to tell you that I used bacon grease so I could match the flavors of the meatloaf, but no ... I just keep a jar handy of bacon drippings and use that to cook most of my foods that come from a skillet.  (Decadent!)  Saute garlic in the bacon grease for about a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the vegetables, a little bit of salt and saute for about five to seven minutes.  Add rice and water/broth.  Cover skillet and cook on low until the vegetables are tender.  Salt and pepper to taste.


A few random notes ...

* My friend Cathy has enlightened me on the joys of baking bacon.  Seriously ... I don't know that I'll ever bother using a skillet to make my bacon again.  The slices turn out perfectly crisp and don't curl up like they do in the skillet.  Plus, there's enough drippings left over to satisfy my yen to saute everything in bacon grease and you still get the "cooked bacon" scent in your kitchen.

* Pre-cooking rice.  Wild rice takes forever to cook and I'm not usually patient enough to wait for it to cook, so I don't use it as often as I should.  I've learned though, that you can pre-cook grains like rice and store them in your freezer until you want to use them.  It's very, very handy - I do it with brown rice and wild rice to pare off cooking time during the week.  Basmati rice is one of my favorite, go-to every day rices because it doesn't take a fortune of time to cook.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Guardian of the Kitchen ... and a couple snack ideas

I would like you to meet Digger - this is my cat who is also the guardian of the kitchen.  And in case you're wondering what he's doing in this picture - he's "guarding" the top of the refrigerator.  He's majestic.  And a pain in the butt.

So I hear there's this really big game going on today?  And although I live in a state that borders Wisconsin and spent a formative year and a half living about an hour south of Green Bay, I'm pretty much immune to sporting events in general.  But I like any excuse to party.  So in case you're looking for some last minute inspiration - all of these can be made without breaking too much of a sweat.

These are my Aunt Sue's Spicy Pretzels.  Not to be confused with Whiskey Pretzels, but also decadent with a mustard dip.
These are my friend Deb's Pesto Pinwheels.  Easy, tasty ... perfect snack food.
Buffalo Chicken Dip.  Enough said.
Bastardized Crab Rangoons.  These things are addictive.
Chipolte Roasted Peanuts
And now if you're looking for some sweet stuff, may I suggest ...

You want easy?  This is my mom's Cherry Cheese Pie.  It is super, easy goodness in a disposable pie tin.

Margarita Cupcakes.  I don't know about the rest of you - but I'm pretty darn tired of winter.  This reminds me of warmer times and how awesome it is to combine booze with dessert.
Guinness Cupcakes - this is what happens when you add stout and chocolate.  And it is good too.
May the team you're rooting for win.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Spice Bread

Now, the technical name of this recipe, as concocted by Heidi Swanson of 101 Cookbooks is "Brown Butter Spice Bread."  And trust me ... the brown butter spice bread?  It is good.  It is very good.  It is so good that I was thankful when Ryan INHALED 3/4 of the loaf after it was made, because if he wouldn't have done it.  I would have.  The bread is good. 

But I'm trying to be a good girl.  There's a Biggest Loser challenge going on at work and I mean to help my team - the Zebra Hot Cakes - go for the gold and beat all of the pesky men at my workplace who can just give up drinking beer and lose 30 pounds in one week.  (OK, so maybe they didn't lose that much weight in one week, but combined - they probably did.  Because men lose weight easier than women do and that is just a travesty.  Now I'm off my soap box.)

So I took Heidi's original recipe and I used all of the things that I've ever learned about healthy baking and I applied it to this recipe.  And the end result?  Maybe not as decadent as Ms. Swanson's original offering, but still a pretty decent treat to make every once in awhile.

You may find the original recipe here.  And the picture down below is from that decadent loaf known as Brown Butter Spice Bread.  Since my bastardized recipe did not have brown butter (or any butter for that matter), we're just going to call it Spice Bread and call it good.

This is the last fourth of the original loaf that I made.  Then ... it was gone.

Spice Bread
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour **
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon garam masala (Acc'd to original recipe, you can substitute pumpkin pie spice if you do not have garam masala.)
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 cup fine grain natural cane sugar or muscovado sugar ***
2 large eggs
1/4 cup well-pureed roasted winter squash
1/4 cup pureed ripe banana
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup dried fruit (I used Trader Joe's Super Cranberry Pomegranate blend)
1/3 cup lightly toasted sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350F. Spray a a 1-lb loaf pan with baking spray.  Sift t into a large bowl. Set aside. In a large bowl whisk the sugar, eggs, squash/banana, and milk. Whisk in the applesauce.   Sift in the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, garam masala, and sea salt.  Stir until just combined.  Fold in most of the almonds and the dried fruit.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, sprinkle with 1 tablespoons of sugar and remaining almonds, and bake for about 50-60 minutes, or until the edges have browned and the center of the cake is well set.


Several notes and some commentary:  I used a butternut squash that I peeled and seeded.  Cutting it into chunks, I roasted the squash in a 400 degree oven until they were cooked and tender.  It was a real bitch getting the squash as smooth as I wanted it to be for this recipe ... it was a process that was made easier by adding the banana and the milk to the squash and using my (brand-new!) hand blender to puree it. 

And now ... my asterisks.

** The original recipe called for 1 1/2 c. of whole wheat pastry flour.  I have had some leftover buckwheat flour that I've been meaning to use up forever.  In fact, it came from this recipe from 101 Cookbooks.  AMAZING.

*** Are you saying "what the hell is fine grain natural cane or muscovado sugar?"  That's OK, because I have moments like that too.  What I ended up doing, because I'm kind of into making as big of a mess as possible in my kitchen, is that I used my C&H Washed Raw Sugar and I put it in my coffee bean grinder and blitzed it until it was super-fine.  If you want to go this nerdy route, just make sure that you wipe out the coffee residue from your grinder before attempting.  And then wipe it out again when you're ready to make coffee.