Friday, July 30, 2010

Spicy Beef in Lettuce Cups

 I was slightly curious about this book as I only knew Nancy McDermott's recipes from her baking book "Southern Cakes" which is a bit of a hit or miss book with getting recipes to turn out. That said, it may not be the book sometimes as it is me sometimes not reading directions or issuing those dreaded words "that should be good enough."  Hence the adaptation below. Nancy's instructions were very simple but exact. I on the other hand pretty much dumped everything together into the skillet and skipped a few steps altogether. So I was pretty happy when everything turned out surprisingly tasty.

I've had some issues with messy eating involving lettuce cups and this one was no exception but it's a great meal to whip up on a lazy Saturday afternoon when you're hiding in your house because it's too humid to go outside. Although I would probably make this again on a weekday as it's very simple to put together. Only minor changes I might make is to add some fine diced veggies in this to give it some crunch but overall, liked this. Now I just have to stay out of the kitchen so I don't keep taking spoonfuls of meat out of the fridge.

 Spicy Beef in Lettuce Cups
Slightly adapted from: Quick & Easy Chinese by Nancy McDermott

3 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp dry sherry
2 tsp cornstarch
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 pound ground beef
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp dried ginger powder
1 tbsp fresh ginger chunks
1 tbsp garlic
1/2 tsp ancho chili powder
3 tbsp green onion
1 tbsp Asian sesame oil
Cup shaped lettuce leaves

In a small bowl, combine soy sauce, sherry, cornstarch, sugar and salt and stir well to dissolve cornstarch.

Place ground beef in medium bowl.Mix with half of soy sauce mixture. Combine sesame oil, ancho chili powder, and dried ginger and combine with soy sauce mixture. Let sit for 10-15 minutes.

Lightly stir fry diced green onions and ginger chunks until aromatic but not browned. Add ground beef and stir until meat no longer has any chunks. Cook until completely browned. Drain fat from pan.

Transfer to a serving plate. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

BB: Blueberry Streusel Muffins

This month,Maria of  Close to Home selected Blueberry Muffins. And the Barefoot Bakers were given the option of picking one of Ina's two blueberry muffins, Coffee Cake or Streusel.

I didn't even have to think twice about what I wanted to do. In my opinion, one can rarely have too much streusel on baked goods.  So while I halved the recipe in order to have 1 or 2 to keep at home and the rest to dump on my coworkers who are rapidly becoming my culinary guinea pigs, I made a full recipe of streusel and packed it on the tops of the muffin dough until you had to take my word on it that there was a muffin below the streusel.

The words overmix always worry me a little when I see them in recipes as I suspect that I do tend to lean toward overbaking anytime I make most baked goods. And folding is one of those tasks that I guess at so I was a little concerned when I had everything pulled together and in the oven. But overall, I was pretty happy with how these turned out. However, I don't see myself being able to take them to work as due to putting too many blueberries into the batter, this was a very juicy and slightly messy muffin to eat. Plus, due to the excess blueberry juice oozing out and onto the pan, only a few actually make it out intact.

Messy they might have been, but yummy they indeed were.And they are even better the next day too.

Blueberry Streusel Muffins
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt
  • 2 cups buttermilk, shaken
  • 1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries (2 half-pints)
For the Streusel Topping
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Kosher salt
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Line muffin tins with paper liners.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in to a large bowl and blend with your hands.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, butter, lemon zest, and eggs.  Stir the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture with a fork, mixing  just until blended.  Fold the blueberries into the batter.  Don’t overmix!  With a standard (2 1/4″) ice cream scoop or large spoon, scoop the batter into the prepared cups, filling them almost full.
  3. For the topping, place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade and pulse until the butter is in very small pieces.  Pour into a bowl and rub with your fingers until crumbly.  Spoon about 1 tbsp of the streusel on top of each muffin.  Bake the muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden brown.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

SMS: Toasted Almond Lemon Bars

This week's recipe for the Sweet Melissa Bakers was Toasted Almond Lemon Bars which was picked by Rebecca of Indecisive Baker.

Go check out her blog. Yes, now. The recipe is that good. It's my new go to shortbread/lemon bar recipe.

That's not to say that I didn't make some minor tweaks that ended up getting their revenge later. I decided to go with a round pie pan because I thought it would make the bars look striking for when I bought them into work. Problem was that I did not factor in the difference in size so I had more dough than I should have which made the rest of the assembly more complicated...the baking times were off and the filling just never set properly after that.

Fortunately, in my new attempt to embrace moderation with eating, I threw some dough into a few mini tart pans to save for me while I bought the pie to work. While the pie just never came together  the tarts obediently baked and firmed up perfectly. I did skip the prebaking on these and just patted the dough into place, poured the filling on top and baked it along with the poor doomed should have worked out and not sure why it didn't pie pan. The mini tarts turned out wonderfully..crust was lightly golden and the filling was perfect.

I'm thinking that this may be have a blessing in disguise as I could see myself picking at the pie all weekend and finishing off way too much of it had that turned out as it was supposed to have. I would definitely make this again..but I would want to chill the dough before putting it into the pan as it came out a bit sticky for me. But I would use the smaller tart pans again instead of a traditional bar...they worked out perfectly as a single serving and came out of the tart pans fairly easily even though I didn't spray the pans before hand.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Maple French Toast Bacon Cupcakes

A few months back Bacon Tuesdays at work was born, thanks to Not Quite Nigella who posted a recipe for bacon jam on her website. I persuaded one of my coworkers to make the recipe and the rest, fortunately and yummily, was history. Although we took a break for awhile, we've relaunched Bacon Tuesdays with the recipe I made for Bacon Cupcakes.

 I know. Sounds a little offputting doesn't it. But from my own personal opinion, there are few things that bacon does not make better so for a late celebration of someone's birthday at work, I bought in Bacon Cupcakes today. They were, I am gratified to report, a hit. Although putting any one of us at work  together with sugar and bacon is bound to be a success. I did find the frosting a little sweet so next time, I would cut down on the amount of powdered sugar in it. And although i found the cupcake itself to be a lot more dense than I had expected, a soak in some maple syrup and a rest after frosting made a marked improvement overnight. Still very sweet mind you but the bacon flavor especially is more noticeable in both the cake and frosting after 24 hours.

Would I make these again? Maybe. I would want to do some tweaking with the recipe, experiment with different flavors, maybe take out the cake flour and replace with regular flour for a softer moister cake. But this was still worth the calories I took in between tasting the frosting (I had to make sure it was safe to bring to work after all) and the cupcakes I ate today. 

Maple French Toast Bacon Cupcakes
(From Food Network)

For the Cupcakes:
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 3.9-ounce box instant vanilla pudding mix
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon potato starch
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup half-and-half, at room temperature
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon (5 strips)

For the Frosting:
1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sifted confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
3 strips bacon, cooked and chopped (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Place paper liners in a 12-cup muffin tin. 

Prepare the cupcakes: 
Combine the flours, pudding mix, baking powder, potato starch, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in a bowl with a whisk.

In a separate bowl, cream the butter and sugars with a mixer on low speed until combined, 6 to 8 minutes. Gradually mix in the vanilla and egg whites. Scrape down the sides of the bowl; continue mixing until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with the maple syrup and half-and-half, mixing after each addition and ending with flour. Mix until the ingredients are just combined; do not overmix. Fold in the bacon.

Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about three-quarters of the way. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool completely. 

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Beat the cream cheese and butter with a mixer on medium speed until creamy. Add the confectioners' sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon; beat until combined. Spread on the cooled cupcakes; top with chopped bacon, if desired.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Creamy Cucumber Dressing

Recently, when my sister came to visit, I went on a bit of a cooking spree. Which has subsequently pretty much ground to a halt now that I'm up to my own devices and eating cereal for supper because I'm too lazy too cook. But I digress. Between me being on the weight watchers plan, and my sister's high fiber, low fat plan I didn't have an idea of what to make so I  dug out my old edition of The Best of Cooking Light Cookbook from 1998. Sadly, I don't have nearly as many healthy cookbooks as I do cookbooks that contain huge amounts of butter and sugar but this one had a few recipes that looked promising and got a nod of approval from both of us. I missed the taste of full fat mayo and yogurt in this recipe, but for a low calorie salad dressing this was really better than I had anticipated. Also, it tastes really awesome on chicken too. I don't know if I would use this regularly on salads but I would definitely try it with meats and maybe even branch out into some international foods with this.

1 cup plain low fat yogurt
1/3 cup peeled, seeded and finely chopped cucumber
1/4 cup reduced fat mayonaise
2 tbsp chopped green onions
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried dillweed
1/8 tsp pepper

Combine all ingredients and stir well. Cover and chill. Serve over salad greens. Yield: 1 1/3 cups.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

SMS: Sour Cherry and Almond Biscotti

This week's recipe for the Sweet Melissa Bakers was Sour Cherry and Almond Biscotti which was selected this week  by Tracey of Made by Tray Tray.  And you have got to go to her website because she gets to list the recipe there and it is well worth the the visit. Yummy recipe. Thanks Tracey!

That said, I'm just grateful it turned out. We're talking a serious substitution made in the recipe here. I blame myself for not thinking ahead when planning the recipe...only excuse I can make is that  I've been distracted this past week with hounding my rental office for my new lease as the current one is expiring at the end of this month. Long story short, I panic easily (I'll be evicted sort of thing) and they were late in getting it to me. So when I was at the store this morning picking up almonds and cherries, I though idly of picking up butter just to be on the safe side but then decided against it convinced I knew I  had picked up butter the last time I was there.

I hadn't.

There was no butter in the house. None. Well maybe a tiny sliver but not nearly enough for the recipe. So in desperation (it was hot, I was lazy, I didn't want to have to go out) I googled and figured that substituting cream cheese might work. And fortunately for me, I had a brick of cream cheese so I threw that in figuring at least I would have a good time tasting the recipe until I threw the flour in.

My other change which was not so drastic was to throw in some tart cherries instead of dried sour cherries. And that was because it was early, I wanted to go home because I hadn't had my caffeine yet, and I had to stop by the rental office again to make sure they didn't forget about me. In other words, I didn't want to have to go out of my way to run around the store trying to find them.

And okay, so I skipped rolling the dough into logs partially because the biscotti I've had before has been the more rustic version with slightly jagged edges and long crunchy pieces. Also I was panicking slightly because the dough seem very soft, I was regretting the cream cheese decision and wondering what kind of mutant cookie was going to come out of the oven as a result. I was figuring either some flat misshapen thing or a dough that rose high and looked more like a cake than a cookie. Plus we still have to factor in the laziness factor of not wanting to go through the extra step of rolling and slicing.

But apart from that, I kept to the recipe :)

Honestly. And one of these days I really am going to do Melissa justice by following one of her recipes as she calls for it to be made.

What was great about this is that the recipe actually turned out. And granted I am not a biscotti expert, but this tasted pretty darn good compared to the biscotti I've had before even with the cream cheese substitution. Would definitely make this again. My only hope is that I can stay away from the rest of them long enough to dump on my coworkers Monday instead of eating them myself.

Great pick, Tracey. Thanks!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Buttermilk Pancakes with Fresh Orange Pancake Sauce

I know. Two blog posts in one week? And both of them involving food? You know what this means of course.

My sister is in town.

Which is always nice, but I still  really need to make the effort to cook for myself like this too as this is some seriously good stuff. I'm a pancake girl anyway. And buttermilk pancakes are something I rarely turn down when given the opportunity.But it's the homemade syrup that really blows this dish away. Considering it was my first time making pancake syrup I was impressed at how well this turned out...although I need to remind myself now: USE A BIGGER PAN NEXT TIME. I hadn't considered the syrup would bubble up while cooking so my burner is...ahem...a bit of a sticky mess.

Buttermilk Pancakes
Adapted from Cooking Light: 5 Star Recipes

1 cup King Arthur Flour White All Wheat Flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1 cup nonfat buttermilk
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Combine first 5 ingredients in a large bowl; make a well in center of mixture. Combine egg, buttermilk and oil and add to dry ingredients until just moistened.

Coat nonstick griddle with cooking spray. Pour 1/4 cup batter for each pancake and cook until lightly browned.

Fresh Orange Pancake Syrup
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light: 5 Star Recipes
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cups unsweetened orange juice
1 1/3 cups fresh orange sections (approx 4 medium oranges)
Fresh Zest to taste 

Combine sugar and orange juice in a large saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat; cook 20-25 minutes or until reduced to 1 cup, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat; stir in orange sections. Server warm or chilled with pancakes or over angel food cake. Store in airtight container in refrigerator. Yield: 2 cups.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil

So my sister and I went into the Fourth of July Weekend with a bit of a predicament.

We were both on a diet. She, on a low carb, low fat high fiber diet. Me on Weight Watchers. And both of us have very different styles in how we approach weight  loss, programs aside.So when she agreed to eat a pasta dish as long as it was low carb/high fiber, I immediately turned to my favorite Italian Book "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan. And found a very lovely, very simple recipe that was very delicious to boot.

One thing I love about Marcella's recipes is that she's very precise and very thorough, especially when it comes to someone like me who has a tendency to say "oh that should be good enough" at a very critical or a point of not return in a recipe. I got a bit carried away with adding white pepper to taste so it had a tiny bit of a bite to this but I actually quite enjoyed it.

Marcella does say not to be concerned about the 5 cloves of garlic in the recipe as the taste will  mellow during the simmer and I agree. I did not taste an overbite of garlic..just white pepper. Definitely a recipe I would make again.

Tomato Sauce with Garlic and Basil 
Adapted slightly from "Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking" by Marcella Hazan

Dried Basil (Marcella calls for fresh but I forgot it at the store)
2 cups canned imported Italian Tomatoes, drained and cut up
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Black Pepper ground fresh from mill
1 pound pasta

Put Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, salt and several grindings of pepper into a saucepan and turn heat to medium high. Cook for 20-25 minutes or until oil floats free from tomato. Correct to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove sauce from heat and add basil before tossing pasta and sauce together.

Makes 4 servings.