Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Best Brownie Recipe

This photo contains brownies made by my young daughter.

The other day I went to make brownies and was amazed to find that I hadn't posted this recipe. For some reason, these turn out even better when made by my husband. Note that if you live above 6,000 ft. additional 1/4 - 1/3 c. of flour is crucial for this recipe. I should also note that I believe this recipe is originally from a Hershey's cocoa powder box.

1 c. butter (2 sticks)
2 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
4 eggs
3/4 cocoa
1 c. flour (+ 1/4 - 1/3 c. for high altitude)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
1 c. chopped nuts (optional)

In microwave safe bowl, melt butter (approximately 60-90 seconds). Stir in sugar and vanilla. Add eggs one at a time, beating well with a spoon after each addition. Add cocoa, beating until well blended. Add flour, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Pour into oiled 9x13 pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan. Cool completely prior to cutting.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Black Beans, Blended Beans, Refried Black Beans

In addition to the plantains, I also fell in love with black beans in Guatemala since we typically ate them three meals a day. When eaten together, black beans and rice form a complete protein. Additionally, just one serving of beans and rice contains nearly 1/3 of one's daily fiber needs.

Here's the basic black bean recipe I learned while in Guatemala. Variations also follow

2 c. dried black beans (rinse and sort out any bad beans, rocks, or debris)
5 c. water
1/2 c. chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
2 t. chicken bouillon
Salt to taste
1 bay leaf
Optional - fresh cilantro, cumin, key lime juice (once thoroughly cooked)

Place all ingredients into a medium large pan, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and continue to cook for 2-4 hours until soft. These also work great in a crock pot on medium for 3-4 hours. Remove bay leaf, & strain.

Black Bean & Rice Soup
After the beans are cooked, add 2 c. chicken broth and 1 c. rice. Continue to cook until the rice is cooked and serve as soup.

Blended Black Beans
After the beans finish cooking, scoop 2 cups (with juices) into blender and blend until smooth and viscous, adjusting liquid (adding water or chicken broth) if necessary. Repeat process using all of the beans and juices. As the beans cool, they will thicken. Great for rice accompaniment, burritos, side dishes etc.

Refried Black Beans (Frijoles volteados)

As above, blend beans and liquid into a thick mixture.
Over a medium high flame, heat 1/2 c. vegetable oil in a large frying pan. Add beans and allow to cook for 2 minutes. Using a spatula, begin to move the beans around. Adding more oil (as needed) continue to cook the beans. As they thicken begin to toss the beans against the side of the pan until they begin to form into a solid mass. Continue to cook and toss until the outer layer forms a darkened crisp layer, and the mass forms into a loaf like shape.

Slide onto a plate, and slice to serve.

Note - authentic re-fried black beans are made with lard. These recipes substitute olive oil.
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Fried Plantains


Several years ago, I lived in Guatemala as a missionary for my church. While all of the food was foreign to me, I soon grew to love it. One of my all time favorite dishes became plantains, or 'platanos fritos' as we knew them. We could walk down the streets and I would smell them cooking in the houses...then I'd crave them all day long!
Plantains are surprisingly versatile in cooking. Several countries including Honduras and Puerto Rico use them green, sliced thinly and fried in oil. Once they've drained, but while hot, they are smashed and salted, and slightly resemble a potato chip.

After living in Guatemala, I thought I could have written a cookbook of 101 ways to prepare a plantain. Besides fried, I also like to microwave them with a small amount of water for 2-4 minutes, and eat them with a little sugar sprinkled on them. They can also be baked with cinnamon and drizzled with cream.

When purchasing plantains, keep in mind that their flavor corresponds to their ripeness. Sold in most grocery stores next to the bananas, they look exactly like bananas, but bigger (they are sometimes known as 'macho bananas'). When they are green and very firm, they are very starchy - almost like biting into a raw potato. As they ripen, their skins begin to turn black. While they may appear spoiled or as a rotten banana, the darker their skins become, the sweeter they become. If they aren't quite dark yet, leave them on the counter top for several days until their skins darken and they become soft to touch.

Here's my family's favorite recipe for fried plantains.
4 plantains (found in the grocery section next to the bananas)
Salt and sugar to taste

Over medium heat, place 2-4 T. vegetable oil in a large frying pan or skillet.
On a cutting board, slice off the tip of the plantain, and then peel the fruit, discarding the skin.
Horizontally slice each plantain into strips between 1/8 inch - 1/4 inch.
Place the plantain strips into the hot oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt and sugar.
After approximately 2 minutes (as the plantains are beginning to brown) using a fork, flip and continue to cook on the opposite side. Lightly sprinkle with salt and sugar. Once cooked through and slightly darkened, remove and drain on paper towels prior to serving.

These may be sprinkled with cinnamon, or drizzled with cream as well.
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Peach Skin Jelly - Award Winning

This jelly recently won the Open Class Grand Champion prize in our county fair.

I attended a canning class several years ago. During her presentation, the presenter suggested using the peels and discarded pieces (when canning peaches) for jam or jelly. While this may seem distasteful at first, in actuality, the bruised parts of fruit often add greater sweetness.

The following is a modified jelly recipe, which uses the discarded skins and blemishes instead of fresh perfect fruit.

3-1/2 cups juice prepared from discarded skins and bruised spots/blemishes of approximately 10 lbs. of peaches (see below)
1-1/2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
7-1/2 cups sugar, measured into separate bowl
1/2 tsp. butter or margarine
2 pouches CERTO Fruit Pectin

To prepare jars:
BRING boiling-water canner, half full with water, to simmer. Wash jars and screw bands in hot soapy water; rinse with warm water. Pour boiling water over flat lids in saucepan off the heat. Let stand in hot water until ready to use. Drain jars well before filling.

To prepare peach juices:
Place peach peels and remnants into sauce pot; add water. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 5 min., stirring occasionally. Place three layers of damp cheesecloth or jelly bag in large bowl. Pour prepared into cheesecloth. Tie cheesecloth closed; hang and let drip into bowl until dripping stops. Press gently. Measure exactly 3-1/2 cups juice into 6- or 8-qt. sauce pot. (If needed, add up to 1/2 cup water for exact measure.) Stir in lemon juice.

STIR sugar into juice mixture in sauce pot. Add butter to reduce foaming. Bring to full rolling boil (a boil that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in pectin. Return to full rolling boil and boil exactly 1 min., stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off any foam with metal spoon.

LADLE immediately into prepared jars, filling to within 1/8 inch of tops. Wipe jar rims and threads. Cover with two-piece lids. Screw bands tightly. Place jars on elevated rack in canner. Lower rack into canner. (Water must cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add boiling water, if necessary.) Cover; bring water to gentle boil. Process 11 min. (for 6,000 ft. altitude.)

Remove jars and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After jars cool, check seals by pressing middles of lids with finger. (If lids spring back, lids are not sealed and refrigeration is necessary.)


Yes, I know - aeble what??


Following is a recipe for a scandanavian treat. How to describe them? One of my friends describes them like donut holes, but not greasy or sweet. The original name (so I'm told) means applets, because they have small chunks of apples cooked inside. I think of them as having more of a pancake or waffle consistency. Anyways, despite the not so amazing picture, this is a family treat. We love to have them on Sundays for dinner when we've had a large lunch and are looking for something light. They taste best with family games.

The pans can usually be found online, at camping stores, and specialty cooking shops.
I believe this recipe came from my mother-in-law who received it years ago from a scandanavian friend

2 c. buttermilk (or milk soured by lemon juice/vinegar)
3 eggs (divided)
2 c. flour (+/- 1/4 c. for high altitude)
1 t. baking soda
1 T. baking powder
2 T. sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 apple - peeled and cut into coarse chunks

Beat eggwhites until stiff, and then transfer to a medium sized bowl. Set aside.
Beat egg yolks until creamy, then add remaining ingredients, and beat until well mixed.
Gently fold in eggwhites.

Heat pans over med/medium heat, and put a dab of vegetable shortening in the bottom of each cup (I use a painting brush for quicker application. Pam spray may also be used, but they cook a little differently and don't tend to turn out as well.)

When shortening has heated, add batter, filling each cup 3/4 full. Place a coarsely chopped apple chunk into the middle of each cup and after a few minutes, invert (using a shishkabob stick, or a fondue fork). Serve immediately with butter, cinnamon sugar, jelly, etc.
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