Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chili Beef Stew

Last week was a crazy week that involved NO cooking at all. We had a long weekend away with family followed by a sick kid for two days and it wrapped up with two 13+ hour work days for me. Frankly, we are lucky to be alive at this point. We made a big pot of spaghetti sauce on the weekend for the freezer and I was anxiously awaiting Monday so I could be alone again and get back in my kitchen.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rocky Road Bars and One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk Pecan Cookies

My new copy of Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey arrived in the mail this week (and Sticky, Chewy, Messy Gooey Treats for Kids is on its way) and I was hoping it'd be as good as Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy, which Carole gave me for Christmas two years ago, and which I totally love and go back to time and time again (spine is broken and pages are sticky... always good signs). Different authors and totally different looks to the books but obviously titles with delicious-sounding adjectives stacked one of top of the other appeal to me... great marketing idea! I'd been wanting to do some baking since The Eldest was coming home from university for reading week and that's as good an excuse as any to pull out the sugar and vanilla and get the kitchen smelling good.

I first decided on making these Rocky Road Bars from Carole's book, but halfway through remembered that Corbin had sworn off anything marshmallowy years ago, following a particularly dramatic upchuck on the cobblestone streets of London after gobbling back a dime-bag of penny candy in our rental car. To be fair, Q's driving of a manual car generally gives us all motion sickness of some sort, but Corbin has held a personal grudge against marshmallows ever since. Sorry... too much information on our domestic affairs but this is only to explain why I ended up baking twice that afternoon, following up with the "best" choc chip cookies from my newest cookbook. Some ooey-gooey followed by some chewy-crispy. O'Connor's approach is to use melted butter and then to refrigerate the dough for an hour before cooking. The results were worth the extra time involved... and loved the addition of pecans, even though it ruled out taking cookies for school lunches. Bummer.

Rocky Road Bars
from Alice Medrich's Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy
makes 16 2-inch bars

6 tbsp (3/4 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup walnut halves or large pieces
12 regular marshmallows, quartered
1 cup milk or semisweet chocolate chips

Line an 8-inch square pan with foil (bottom and all sides). Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix the butter with the graham cracker crumbs and sugar until all of the crumbs are moistened. (I screwed up here and used 3/4 cup of butter instead of 3/4 stick so I had to add more graham crumbs. Made for a thicker crust but no complaints.) Scatter half the nuts on top and pop in the oven for 10 mins until crust starts to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven (turn up heat to 375 degrees) and scatter the remaining nuts, marshmallows and chocolate on top. Pop back in the oven on the top shelf and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool completely and then cut into bars.

The Best One-Bowl Chocolate Chunk-Pecan Cookies
from Jill O'Connor's Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey

makes 3 dozen cookies

2 cups pecan halves

1 cup unsalted butter (melted)

3/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp pure vanilla

2 large eggs

2 1/4 cups bleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

2 cups semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Toast pecans for 6 to 9 minutes; remove and allow to cool. Turn off the oven.

Stir together the melted butter and the two sugars. Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and stir until smooth. Add in the flour, baking soda and baking powder, and stir until until incorporated. Fold in the chocolate and pecans. Transfer the batter to the fridge and refrigerate for an hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a 1-inch ice-cream scoop, place the dough balls on parchment lined trays and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Vietnamese BBQ Lemongrass Pork

Although I like chinese bbq pork, nothing beats vietnamese bbq for me and I order a side of it almost every time I go out for pho. It's like pork candy.

I didn't actually bbq this because it's winter but I will most certainly do that ASAP because this stuff is the bomb. Sticky, sweet pork is always my friend and even without the charred bits that it gets from grilling over charcoal, this stuff is delicious. After much searching around and needing a new recipe to try, I settled on this recipe from The Ravenous Couple.

Vietnamese BBQ Lemongrass Pork
adapted from the ravenous couple

2 pork tenderloins
1/4 cup minced lemongrass
1/4 cup sugar
2 tbls fish sauce
few grinds of black pepper
3 cloves garlic
3 tbls sesame oil
1 tbls kecap manis ( i am not sure what thick soy sauce is but this is what I use)
3 tbls toasted sesame seeds

I chopped up 3" of lemongrass stalk and then whizzed it up in the bullet   - do enough that you end up with 1/4 cup of the minced lemongrass.
Add the rest of the ingredients, except for the sesame seeds, to your food processor or blender or bullet and whiz it up until its completely blended.

Slice the pork into thin slices, probably about 1/4" or so and then pour the marinade all over the pork, mix it well making sure that every inch of each piece of pork is coated. Cover and put it in the fridge for at least an hour up to 24 hrs.

You can heat a grill pan (or just a heavy sauté pan if you don't have a grill pan) over medium high heat and grill the pork for a couple of minutes per side. You could also broil it. If you want charred bits but want to cook it on the stove top you can just throw it under a really hot broiler for a minute before you serve it.
Luckily for me, The Neighbour has a gas BBQ so I threaded the meat on skewers and we grilled it over med high heat for a few minutes per side. It gets nice and caramelized when you grill it so I was happy to share our meal with them - they have the bbq lol.
We ate it with rice this time.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Smoked Paprika Roast Chicken

My first dish of the new year was roasted paprika chicken breast with tomatoes and chick peas . I used bone in chicken breasts that time and I fell so in love with the oil that I have been using it for lots of other things like some roasted some cauliflower and a batch of peppers, zucchini and red onion. This stuff is the bomb.

Tonight I wanted to roast a chicken and so what could be more perfect than a slathering of the paprika oil on a whole chicken? It is very similar to the original but I think adapting the dish to a whole chicken and changing up the veg makes it new enough for me. As a change from my sticky rotisserie method that I usually use, I roasted the bird at high heat. So simple. It really is cooking for dummies and since I have a no good, terrible head cold and can't even remember my own name right now, that made it a perfect dish. The skin was beautifully crispy and the smoked paprika flavour really shines through.

Smoked Paprika Roast Chicken

smoked paprika oil
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbls smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin

1 3 lb roasting chicken
kosher salt

3 yellow fleshed potatoes
handful of brussels sprouts, washed and ends trimmed but left whole

mix up the paprika oil

Rub some of the paprika oil on the chicken, making sure you get every spot covered.If you can do it earlier in the day and leave it, uncovered, in the fridge that would be great but I am sure it would still be good if you can't do that.
Preheat the oven to 450F

Cut the potatoes into big chunks and toss them, along with the brussel sprouts, in a small drizzle of the paprika oil, salt and pepper and toss to coat well.

Place your chicken in a roasting pan and surround it with the potatoes and brussels sprouts, sprinkle the bird with some kosher salt and roast it on the second to bottom level in your oven for about 1 hr. I put the other rack on the top spot and lay a piece of foil on that so that the fat won't splatter up onto the upper element and make it smoke like crazy.

That's it. I didn't baste it or stir the vegetables or anything.
I took it out after an hour, carved the chicken, put the veggies in a bowl.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Carrot and Parsnip Soup with Parsnip Chips and Apple/Cheddar Quick Bread

After eating away from home so much lately, I was craving some veggies and comfort food, so what better than a nice bowl of soup and some cheesy bread alongside? Maddie ain't a big fan of parsnips but I figured the carrots would hide their existence... and who could resist the crispy parsnip chips on top? Apparently she could. At first she asked if this was my "burnt carrot" soup (aka roasted carrots that I guess she thinks get overly browned in the oven) and then she was highly suspicious that another ingredient was being kept from her. But she was the only non-believer. Austin and I were busy popping back the parsnip chips so quickly before dinner, I wish I'd made double the amount. Total yum. And the quick bread was quick, easy and delish. When I saw that it had no spices, I was concerned that it might be really bland but instead it allowed the tang of both the apples and the cheese to shine through... in fact, it would have complicated things to add another flavour. And kids have already asked to take for lunch tomorrow... a hit for sure.

2 tbsp olive oil, divided

2 1/2 cups chopped yellow onions

3 cups coarsely chopped parsnips (about 1 lb)

2 1/2 cups coarsely chopped carrots (about 1 lb)

3 cups water

2 (14-oz) cans fat-free, low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth

1 cup thinly sliced parsnip

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

Heat 1 tsp oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until tender (about 10 mins). Add the parsnip, carrot, watter and broth; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 50 mins or until veggies are tender. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 mins. Use a handheld blender to process until smooth. Stir in salt and pepper.

Heat remaining oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the parsnip slices; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, turning occasionally. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle chips and chives over soup.

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

3/4 cup milk plus 2 tbsp

1/3 cup canola oil

1 egg

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 cup finely diced apples

1 cup strong cheddar cheese, grated

3 tbsp cheddar cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep your loaf pan by lightly greasing it with butter and then use a mixture of cornmeal and flour to dust the insides. About a spoonful of each will do.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix together the milk, oil, egg and brown sugar until well blended. Pour in the diced apples and stir in the flour mixture. Add in the cheese in 3 handfuls--stirring between each. Dump the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 45-50 mins. Sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and cook for 10 mins longer until the cheese melts and the bread is cooked all the way through--use a wooden skewer in the middle to test doneness.

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