Saturday, September 27, 2014

Herbed Butter, Herbed Garlic Bread, & Herbed Butter Pats

An easy and delicioius twist on garlic bread. 

Use the freshest herbs possible.  Mince herbs, and adjust flavors according to your personal taste preferences.   
Gently mix herbs into room temperature butter. 

Variations: Spread onto a french bread loaf, wrap with foil, and heat for a zesty garlic bread - see below 

May be made ahead as fancy butter pats for rolls and breads, by spooning mixture into a frosting piping bag with a large tip, and piping the butter into pats on a piece of wax or parchment paper, and freezing to sabilize shape.  Keep frozen in a ziplock bag until needed. 

Use butter pats used in pastas, rices, soups etc.       

Fresh Herbed Butter Garlic Bread
Mince and combine the following
1 T. Fresh Parsley
2 T. Fresh Basil
1/2 T. Fresh Rosemary
1/2 T. Fresh Chives
2 Garlic Cloves

Mix into 1 stick of room temperature butter, and season with Kosher salt to taste. 

Slice a loaf of french bread into 1 inch vertical slices, not quite cutting through the bottom crust. Spread herbed butter onto each slice, then wrap bread in foil.  Place in 350* oven for 10-20 minutes - until butter is melted and bread is steaming.  
Serve immediately

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Crispy Tortilla Strips with a Popcorn maker

Last week I made our favorite Chicken Tortilla Soup.  One of our favorite facets of this soup are all of the a la carte toppings that can be added.  Especially the tortilla strips.  Thin, salty, and crunchy mmmm. 

Except that I dislike how long they take to stir, and turn, and stir again, waiting for them to brown. 

And then I saw the pop corn popper on the counter - just begging to be used, and had an epiphany.  
I couldn't believe how easy these were, and the popper took care of everything! 
Note, a "Stir-Crazy" or similar pop corn machine is required for this recipe. 
Tortilla strips - as many as desired, in stacks of 12-15 (corn or flour)
3 Tablespoons Coconut oil, or oil of your choice
coarse salt

Place tortillas in a stack and cut them into 1/2 x 2" strips with a large kitchen knife.  
Turn pop corn popper on, and add oil.  Once oil is heated (seconds), add tortilla strips. Take care not to overfill.  The bottom wire must be able to move the weight of the tortilla strips.  

Note the motion from the blurred parts of the image
Sprinkle with coarse salt, cover with lid and walk away. Check intermittently, and remove when crisped to satisfaction.

Carefully remove with slotted spoon or tongs, and allow grease to drain on a paper towel, over a bowl.  Salt and season to taste. 
Sprinkle over soups or salads

Variation - For a sweet taste, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and serve over ice cream 

Friday, September 19, 2014

Tropical Tapioca Pudding with Guava, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Beans

Today, I boiled guavas in a simple syrup, blended the fruit and syrup in my high powered blender, and strained out the seed granules.  It made an amazing nectar.  While my daughter and I thought about just drinking it right then and there, I felt a little guilty about it (I guess it couldn’t be worse than downing a pitcher of koolaid??) so we set off on a quest to figure out how to use this delightful concoction.

In the end, this recipe turned out to be an aromatic treat that my family found comforting with a tropical flair.  I hope you’ll love it as much as we do. 

Tropical Tapioca with Guava, Cinnamon, and Vanilla Beans
3 cups milk
2/3 cups sugar
6 Tablespoons Minute Tapioca
2 eggs, beaten (or substitute 1 Tablespoon of chia for each egg)
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon vanilla, plus scrape the seeds from 1/2 a vanilla bean.  Add bean pod to tapioca for flavor while cooking, but discard prior to serving)

Mix milk, nectar, sugar, and tapioca and eggs/chia in a medium sized pan.  Add cinnamon stick, vanilla bean seeds, and pod. Cook on medium heat until mixture comes to a full boil, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. 
Cool 20 min. Stir. Remove cinnamon stick and vanilla bean pod.  
Spoon into dessert dishes and serve with a dollop of whipping cream and a vanilla bean sliver, lightly dusted with cinnamon.
Serve warm or chilled. 


Fizzy Guava Refresher, Guava Nectar, and Guava Syrup

While living in Central America, I fell in love with several tropical fruits - one of them, the guava. While delightfully aromatic and sweet, they full of tiny seeds that are as hard as in really, a mouthful of gravel.  Each time I find them at my local asian produce market, I take some home with hopes of figuring out how to really use these for something more than just boiling for the amazing smell.  I won't catalogue my failures, but here are some of our favorite guava successes.    

There's not much that beats the smell of ripe guavas boiling on the stove in a simple syrup with a cinnamon stick. Here's how to make it into something that tastes great too.

Guava Syrup
4-6 ripe guavas
6 cups of boiling water
1.5 cups of sugar
1 cinnamon stick

In a medium sized pan, add sugar, then boiling water.  Stir until combined.  Rinse and trim ends of guavas, then quarter, and add with a cinnamon stick to the sugared water.  Boil for 30-45 minutes until guavas are very soft and the mixture has reduced to a light syrup.

Strain through a tight seive. Discard fruit and cinnamon stick.

Syrup can be used to flavor baked goods, puddings, frostings, ice cream, glazes, salads, etc.
Thicken with 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/2 teaspoon butter for a pancake/breakfast syrup.

Guava Nectar
Prepare the simple syrup as above, except prior to straining mixture, remove cinnamon stick, and pour fruit, seeds, and syrup into a high speed blender and blend thoroughly.  Strain and discard seed granules with a tight sieve, or a layer of cheese cloth.

Use in smoothies, cakes, puddings, asian cooking bases etc.

Fizzy Guava Refresher
Guava Nectar (above)
Seltzer Water, or Ginger Ale
Mint (optional garnish)

Mix equal parts of the nectar with seltzer water or ginger ale for a fizzy, refreshing tropical drink.  Serve over ice, and garnish with mint.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Smoky Baba Ghanoush

 I first had babaghanoush at a Turkish restaurant, and totally fell in love with it.  
What is it you may ask? 
In a nutshell - roasted eggplant, tahini (a sesame based paste), garlic, lemon juice, salt, parsley, and olive oil.   
 For any of those eggplant haters out there - I'm with you.  My mom made it when I was a kid - hated it.  I tried it several different ways as an adult, and just hated it.  Then I had babbaganoush, and am totally in love - it tastes nothing like eggplant to me this way. 

The babaghanoush gets a smoky flavor from being roasted, as in roasted to a char. 

Lightly spray grill with cooking spray for easy turning. 
Place two medium sized egg plants on the grill (some recipes say poke them, but they fill with steam and cook better without holes).  While they can be roasted on a gas range, or in the oven, a grill really brings out the smoky flavor.  
Grill for 15-20 minutes, and then very carefully turn. Roast an additional 15-20 minutes, until the eggplant is so charred that you are completely sure that it is inedible.  

Remove from grill, wrap in foil and let it steam for 15 minutes.  
Carefully make a lengthwise slit in the eggplant and open.  With a spoon, scrape out all of the flesh from the inside of the eggplant. 

Place flesh into a salad spinner and gently spin to remove excess liquid. 

Place in a bowl, and add three minced garlic cloves, and two Tablespoons of fresh lemon juice.  Mix until it becomes creamy. 

Mix in three Tablespoons of tahini then, while mixing, slowly drizzle 1/4 cup olive oil into mixture.  Continue to mix until it is thoroughly incorporated.  
Stir in 1/4 cup chopped parsely. 
Season with 1/4-1/2 teaspoon of salt (to taste).   

Serve with lavas(h), naan, roti, or pita chips/bread, crackers or veggies. 

Smoky Babaghanoush
2 medium sized egg plants
3 Tablespoons tahini
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
3 minced garlic cloves
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt to taste

Roast egg plant on gas grill for 30-40 minutes, until blackened and charred, turning once.  
Enclose in foil and allow to sit for 15 minutes. 
Carefully scoop out flesh (discard charred bits), and place in a salad spinner, and gently spin to remove excess liquid. 
Place in a medium sized bowl and mix until creamy with lemon juice and garlic. 
Add tahini, and while mixing, slowly drizzle in olive oil.  
Stir in parsley, and add salt to taste. 
Serve with lavas(h), naan, roti, pita chips, veggies, or crackers. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Pumpkin Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

This recipe comes from my friend Freddy, from an old church cookbook. Perfect for fall, to fill up your home with all fragrant spices.

1 c. softened butter
4 eggs
1.5 c. flour
1/4 t. cinnamon
2 c. sugar
1 c. cooked pumpkin
1.5 t. pumpkin spice
1 t. vanilla

Cream butter and sugar, then beat in eggs, then, pumpkin, and vanilla.
Sift in the flour, and spices, and mix well.

Pour into a greased 9x13 inch pan, and bake at 350* for 30-40 minutes.

Cool before frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting
1 (6 oz.) package of cream cheese
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. softened butter (1 stick)
1.5 c. powdered sugar.

Blend the room temperature cream cheese with the butter, then add the vanilla and powdered sugar.
Beat well, and spread over brownies.

*Baker's note.  These do not freeze well.