Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Fantastical Food Fight: PBJ Smoothie

Wow, my first post of the year and it's already March!  I've cooked this year for sure, but haven't experimented with new recipes as often as usual or written new posts.  My husband and I both started new jobs in December and January and adjusting to that has been taking up a lot of... well, everything.  Little bloggie has not been forgotten, just taken a backseat for a little bit.
So, this is a Fantastical Food Fight post.  I tried to participate in January, which had the focus of slow cooker soup.  Picked a recipe, bought the ingredients, then didn't actually make the recipe until late February.  It's funny, really, I ended up using all the originally purchased ingredients for other things and had to repurchase them when I actually made the soup!  The good thing about FFF though is that there's no obligation to participate every month, so I wasn't letting anyone down when I didn't participate.
This month's Fantastical Food Fight subject is peanut butter and jelly!  Yum, we love PBJs at our house.  I immediately thought of Ina Garten's amazing PBJ bars, but I've already made those and posted about them on the blog.  As much as I'd love an excuse to make that recipe again, the Fantastic Food Fight posts are supposed to be about new recipes.  Looking online, I found a couple of recipes and ideas I was interested in trying, but settled on a smoothie because we've been on a real smoothie kick since we got a Vitamix blender.  
Okay so there isn't actually any jelly in this smoothie.  I try to make my smoothies as healthy as possible and although I like jelly, I a) did not want to add sugar to the smoothie, and b) I wanted to use fresh fruit.  But strawberry jam is frequently used in PBJs and peanut butter banana sandwiches are pretty common, too!
This is actually round two of my PBJ smoothie experiment.  The first time I tried it, I used milk instead of yogurt and water, real peanut butter, two bananas, and about half the strawberries.  Neither of us were crazy about the result.  I didn't like how rich (from the fat in the peanut butter) and milky it was, and the banana totally obliterated the strawberry flavor.  Usually I use two bananas in a smoothie for two people, but that wasn't a good choice for this one.  This version uses peanut butter powder so it's not as rich, yogurt and water, just one banana, and more strawberries.  The banana was actually added after I had already blended everything up.  My plan had been to leave out the banana entirely, but it was lacking a little something without the banana, so I chucked one in.

It's actually a lovely shade of pale pink- the glass is light green!
So, how did it turn out?  Pretty good!  My husband and I both agree that we like green smoothies better, but this was good and a nice alternative if you happen to be out of kale or spinach or are low on yogurt but want protein in the smoothie.  The flavors of the peanut butter, banana, and strawberries all come through nicely.  One thing I'd like to add is to make sure all your ingredients are cold.  The yogurt and strawberries came right out of the refrigerator, and I used cold water, but the banana was room temperature and the resulting smoothie was not very cold.  Usually I don't mind room temperature smoothies, but this one was definitely at its best when cold.
PBJ Smoothie
1/2 C plain greek yogurt
1/4 C cold water
1 frozen or cold banana
2 C frozen or cold strawberries
3 to 4 Tbsp peanut butter powder (I used 3 but 4 would have been good)
Place all ingredients in blender, put on lid, and blend until smooth.
Yield: 2 medium sized smoothies

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Fantastical Food Fight: Earl Grey Shortbread

Time for the second Fantastical Food Fight!  This month's assignment was shortbread cookies.  A friend of mine on Facebook recently mentioned making shortbread cookies with earl grey tea in them.  I love earl grey (and basically bergamot anything), so really didn't even consider making any other type of shortbread.  My friend used a different recipe that had thumbprints filled with jam.  That sounds delicious, but I wanted something simpler so the earl grey flavor could shine.  This base recipe was originally called Scottish Shortbread and comes from Taste of Home.  I added the tea.
Verdict?  Yum!  I used only one tea bag and couldn't taste much tea, so I put 2 tea bags in the instructions below.  Better to start out with not enough than too much, right?  Regardless, this is some tasty shortbread.  Very buttery and crunchy.  The brown sugar adds a lot of flavor and you'd never guess how few ingredients are in the recipe.  I can't wait to make these again with more tea.

Unrelated, but I finally got a new camera so the iPad food photos will be no more.  Enjoy the still terrible, but slightly less terrible food pictures!
Earl Grey Shortbread
1 C salted butter, softened
1/2 C brown sugar (I used dark brown sugar)
about 2 C flour
contents of 2 earl grey tea bags, crushed (I used a mortar and pestle and Tazo brand earl grey)
Preheat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.
Cream together butter and sugar.  Add flour and tea, mix until well combined- it will look dry at first.  When dough comes together, remove it to a clean counter and knead for 5 minutes.  You can add a little more flour if you need to.  The goal is to have a rather stiff, but not dry or crumbly dough.
Roll dough out to 1/2 inch thickness and cut into 1 by 3 inch pieces.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and arrange 1 inch apart.  Poke cookies with a fork.  Bake until light golden around the edges, about 20 to 30 minutes.  Allow to cool, then store in a tin.
Yield:  About 24 cookies

Monday, December 5, 2016

BBQ Mac & Cheese

I've mentioned this before, but I was a very picky child.  My mom is a good cook, but ungrateful little me had very particular taste buds.  My palate expanded hugely when I was a foreign exchange student my freshman year of high school, and I returned to the US as an adventurous eater, but my parents separated while I was out of the country and my mom didn't cook much after that.  That's pretty much when I started learning to cook!

Because all of my years of being fortunate enough to have my mom cook dinner every night coincided with me being a picky eater, there aren't actually very many recipes in my "lifetime favorites from Mom" recipe category.  I've always loved her white chicken chili, 57 Meatballs, a mushroom chicken casserole recipe I haven't had since I was about 13 years old, an herbed chicken and potatoes recipe I haven't made yet, pumpkin spice cookies, and... this recipe.  (Side note: why haven't I shared any of these favorite on this blog in the 5 years I've been posting?)
It's not really the kind of recipe my mom would usually make and I'm not sure why she chose to make it since the ingredients are a bit odd, but make it she did.  As a mac and cheese lover from the start, even the rather strong flavors appealed to me and this was one of my favorite things my mom made when I was a kid.  The original recipe was apparently called Macaroni for Morons (mean!), but young me named it BBQ Mac & Cheese and that's how it has been known ever since.  There isn't any BBQ sauce in it, but it has a slightly similar flavor and apparently 6 year old me thought it tasted like BBQ sauce.  My mom's version actually has more butter, more cheese, and no mustard, but my husband and I like it this way :)
BBQ Mac & Cheese
1 lb macaroni
4 Tbsp butter
1/2 C chili sauce (Heinz chili sauce, not the spicy asian kind)
1/4 C Worcestershire sauce
1/2 Tbsp dijon mustard
2 C grated sharp cheddar cheese
black pepper and seasoned salt to taste
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil and add macaroni.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until macaroni is tender.  Drain and return to pot.  Add butter, place pot back on burner over low, and cook until butter melts.  Add chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard, and stir to combine.  Add cheese and stir until melted and hot.  Stir in pepper and seasoned salt to taste.
Yield:  About 8 side dish servings.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Yellow Cornbread

This is not a southern style cornbread.  I understand that in the south, cornbread is supposed to be made with a) white cornmeal, b) no flour, and c) no sugar.  Occasionally I make the cornbread recipe from Southern Plate, which fits those requirements, but we kind of like this recipe even more.  It's Canadian!  And has flour, sugar, and I like using yellow cornmeal because it's prettier!  My kitchen, my rules, and sometimes we want a sweet, yellow cornbread.

This recipe is originally from AllRecipes and I've been making it for years.  I've tried a lot of cornbread recipes, and this one is pretty perfect: sweet but not too sweet, soft, moist but not too moist, and just generally yummy.  This is a half recipe because a 9 by 13 pan of cornbread is just more than my husband and I can eat before it goes stale.  My one change is to reverse the amounts of cornbread and flour so there's more of the former.  It makes the perfect cornbread and is my go-to recipe.

Yellow Cornbread

1 C yellow cornmeal
1 1/4 C milk
3/4 C flour
1/3 C sugar
1/2 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1/4 C vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 400 and grease an 8 by 8 inch baking dish.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together cornmeal and milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, and stir until well combined and smooth.  Pour into prepared baking dish.  Bake until golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Yield: About 9 servings.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fantastical Food Fight: Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs

In the wake of the sad demise of Secret Recipe Club, I've decided to join another bloggy cooking group.  This one is called Fantastical Food Fight.  It's pretty different from SRC and I don't know if any other blogging group could take SRC's place in my heart, but I'm happy to give it a go.  With this one, all we have to do is choose and make a recipe from any source that fits a certain category (it can't be a recipe you've shared before), then post about it.  This month's assignment is deviled eggs.
My husband is crazy about deviled eggs and I make them fairly frequently.  Usually they're just the standard deviled eggs, which for some reason I've never posted a recipe for, or Deviled Eyes on Halloween.  My first thought was to make bacon deviled eggs (I even have cooked leftover bacon in my refrigerator right now!), but while briefly snooping around online deviled egg recipes, I found this one for Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs over at Country Living.  All I can say is YUM!  In typical form, I fussed with the recipe a little and added garlic, Worcestershire sauce, and changed the kind of mustard.
Verdict?  Good!  These would be nice to make for a special occasion, maybe Christmas.  Deviled eggs are often a rather impromptu thing I toss together and this recipe needs more planning because it has some ingredients I don't typically have, but that's okay.  It's nice to make special treats sometimes, and as far as special treats go, this one is pretty damned easy to make.  Next time I'll cut back on the cream cheese and add more cheddar so it has more of a cheddar flavor, and I'll use freshly grated cheddar instead of the packaged kind.  The amount of cream cheese in the recipe tasted fine, but it made a LOT of filling as is and adding more cheddar without reducing the cream cheese would just be too much.
Pimento Cheese Deviled Eggs
12 eggs, boiled, cooled, peeled and cut in half
2 oz grated cheddar cheese
3 oz cream cheese (I used the whipped kind)
1/4 C mayo
3 Tbsp diced canned pimentos, plus more for garnish
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp yellow or dijon mustard
1/2 tsp garlic powder
salt and pepper to taste
Place egg yolks in a flat bottomed bowl and mash them with a fork until fluffy.  Stir in grated cheddar, cream cheese, mayo, pimentos, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, garlic powder, and salt and pepper to taste.  Scoop a little into each egg half and garnish with a diced pimento.  Refrigerate eggs for an hour or so until they're cold all the way through, then serve.

Yield: 12 reasonable sized servings, more like 3-4 Mr Cheese with Noodles servings

Pumpkin Pie Spice

It's so much cheaper to mix up your own pumpkin pie spice than to purchase it!  Plus you can customize the ratio of spices in the mix to your own preferences.  I've only bought pumpkin pie spice once in my life and it was when I was about 16 and very new to cooking.  It sat in the pantry for a long time because I didn't like the flavor, it had too much cloves or nutmeg or something.  This version has lots of allspice because I adore allspice!  
Note that you can use this in pretty much any recipe that calls for cinnamon.  So far I have used it in pancakes, pumpkin bread, apple pie jam, apple dump cake, and several other things.  The one thing I haven't used it for is pumpkin pie, but we aren't big pumpkin pie fans in this house!  Also, the blend stores very well.  Just put it in a glass jar and keep it in a cabinet.
Pumpkin Pie Spice
3 T cinnamon
1 T ginger
2 t allspice
1 t nutmeg
1/2 t cloves
Yield: 1/2 cup

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Secret Recipe Club: Grandma Pizza

Today is the very last Secret Recipe Club post.  I've been a member of the group for 2 1/2 years, but the organizers decided to end it.  Very sad.  It was fun while it lasted.
My blog for this month was Karen's Kitchen Stories.  Unsurprisingly, it's written by a lady named Karen, and Karen has been blogging since 2012.  She's a member of multiple online cooking groups and really likes to bake bread!  Her blog has many tempting recipes.  I chose Grandma Pizza, but Yukon Gold Potato Wedges, Peanut Butter Whirligigs, Buffalo Chicken Baked Mac & Cheese, and Rosemary, Cayenne, and Brown Sugar Cashews all called out to me.  My original plan was actually to make the buffalo mac and cheese, but I had to change plans.  I will still make it sometime soon, along with the cashews for Christmas.
So, Grandma Pizza.  I had never heard of it, but it sure looked and sounded good.  It's a rather rustic looking style of pizza, always rectangular or square, that has just recently become popular in restaurants in some areas, seemingly in the northeastern part of the US.  This particular version has a make ahead pizza crust (convenient!).  No fancy toppings for this one, just fresh basil.  My pizza didn't get the basil because I was headed out of town the next day and wouldn't have been able to use up the rest of the package of basil before I left.  No regrets over choosing this for my last SRC, it was great and I'll make it again for sure! 

Grandma Pizza
1 tsp instant yeast (this is a specific kind!)
3 C bread flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 C lukewarm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 C crushed tomatoes
4 oz sliced or grated mozzarella
sliced fresh basil to taste
Mix first 4 ingredients in a large bowl (I used my stand mixer) until it comes together.  It will look shaggy and ugly, that's okay.  Pour the oil into a gallon Ziploc bag and swirl it around to coat the inside.  Put the dough wad into the bag and seal it.  Refrigerate overnight or for 2 days (I did 2 days).
Preheat oven to 375 and plop the dough wad, complete with olive oil, onto a 9 by 13 rimmed metal baking pan.  Squish the dough into a rectangle with your fingers.  The dough may be stubborn since it's cold, but just keep trying.  sprinkle the tomatoes over the dough, leaving a 1/2 inch edge, then sprinkle the cheese over top.  Sprinkle the basil over the cheese.
Bake the pizza until the cheese is bubbly and a bit browned and the bottom is crisp, about 30 minutes.