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Archive for the ‘Cooking’ Category

I’m a fan of cornbread. I like it sweet or savory, but always buttery.  I like it with any meal, any snack, but particularly with beans

They've got a bit of golden crunch to the outside, but inside they're moist and tender.

Last night I made Creamy Bean and Vegetable Soup, adding cooked, crumbled, sweet Italian sausage at the very end.  The soup was delicious and hearty without being too heavy. These muffins–slightly sweet, buttery, moist and tender with a bit of crunch on top–were a perfect side.

If you enjoy culinary contrasts then you'll enjoy these muffins with a savory soup.

Sweet Buttermilk Cornbread Muffins

12 servings

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

1-1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon baking soda

1 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter (about 1/2 stick)

1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease or line with paper 12 medium muffin cups.

Combine dry ingredients.  Stir in buttermilk, butter and egg, mixing  just until dry ingredients are moistened.  Pour batter into prepared muffin cups. Bake 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

The best part of this recipe?  I’ve got leftovers for breakfast!

Happy cooking,

~K

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I really don't know if this should be called a treat; health-food-on-a-stick, maybe?

Last week I first made these treats for my kids.   Sky-hued eyes were enormous above their chocolate smeared mouths. They affirmed yet again that I am the greatest mom EVER!  (This affirmation is often inspired by sugar, some form of media experience or a trip to the playground.) 

And  check out the ingredients:  fresh bananas, semi-sweet chocolate, lightly salted peanuts.  It’s practically health food!  Seriously, it deserves its own dessert. Okay, okay, so there is a weensy bit of heavy cream involved, but it’s hardly worth mentioning.  Besides calcium is important–can’t neglect your teeth and bones! 

You can google chocolate covered bananas and come up with a recipe that goes something like this:  skewer peeled, fresh bananas and freeze; melt chocolate melting chips; dip bananas in melted chips; freeze again and eat.  You will also find recipes that call for combining chocolate and paraffin wax.  

No, thanks.  If I’m eating wax, it better be in some awful, processed treat about whose ingredients I am blissfully ignorant.  I’m going to pause here for a melodramatic shudder.  You feel free to keep reading! 

Here’s how I turned a few ingredients into my kids new favorite frozen treat. 

Chocolate-Peanut Covered Frozen Bananas 

serves 6 

3 ripe, peeled bananas, cut in half and skewered on popsicle sticks or bamboo skewers 

Approximately 8 oz. of Ghiradelli semi-sweet chocolate chips.  (I just eyeballed 3/4 of a 12-oz package of chips) 

Approximately 1 cup of heavy cream 

3/4 cup of lightly salted peanuts 

Place skewered bananas on a platter covered with foil, plastic wrap, parchment paper, wax paper, etc. and set platter in the freezer until bananas are throughly chilled. 

While bananas are chilling, coarsely chop the peanuts using a food processor, blender, or by placing the nuts in a ziploc bag and using a rolling pin to break up the nuts.  Put the nut pieces into a pie pan or large plate. 

They didn't last long in my house!

Place chocolate chips in a heat-proof bowl.  Heat cream in a small sauce pan over low to medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very hot. Do not let the cream boil. Pour hot cream over chocolate and stir briskly until all of the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.  One by one, dip the bananas into the chocolate, thoroughly coating the fruit, allowing excess to drip back into the bowl.  Immediately roll bananas in the nuts, then set back onto the freezer platter.  Repeat with the rest of the bananas and return them to the freezer until thoroughly chilled (30-60 minutes) or completely frozen (at least 2 hours.) 

The chocolate and cream mixture is basically a heavenly concoction known as ganache, without the butter. If you have peanuts and some of the ganache left over, stir the peanuts into the chocolate and put the mixture in the fridge until chilled enough to roll it into balls. Now you’ve got yourself an easy-peasy truffle that’s essentially a spherical, luxurious Mr. Goodbar.   Or, you could just dip  other things in the chocolate:  sliced apples, candied orange peel, strawberries, grapes, pretzels, graham crackers, animal crackers, potato chips, ants, grasshoppers, smalll children…kidding!  Just making sure you’re still with me. 

Happy snacking! 

~K

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Crockpots can be tricky.  The thing is, food is trapped inside and cooked slowly for a long, long time.  Flavors meld, textures soften and disappear

I love fresh basil, but fresh herbs can be tricky in the crockpot so I use a basil marinara and it works just fine. You can use any marinara you like in this recipe!

 altogether.  Sometimes, with certain foods, this is bad news, and sometimes it’s delicious.  When utilized well, your crockpot can produce much more than a jumbo recipe of that dip with processed cheese and canned, spicy tomatoes.  It can give you something better than chicken thighs with condensed soup. How do I know this?   Several years ago a co-worker gave me a recipe for one of her favorite “easy meals”. 

I tried it.  We ate it. We ate some more. I filed the recipe in the family cookbook.  The End.

Well, not quite, actually.   I’ve tweaked it a bit over the years, changing a detail or two whenever I feel sassy in the kitchen.  Here’s the current version, just in time for the cooler weather that I am expecting any day/week/month!

Beef in Red Wine Marinara

Serves 4-6

1 lb. stew meat

1 T. vegetable or canola oil

1/4 tsp of salt

3  grinds  of fresh black pepper (a couple of shakes if you’re using the stuff in the can)

1 medium yellow onion,  chopped

1  8-oz package sliced baby bella (or your favorite) mushrooms

1 cup dry red wine, divided (optional)

1 jar of your favorite tomato-basil marinara sauce

Hot cooked rice or egg noodles

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat until oil is hot.  Toss stew meat with the salt and pepper and add to skillet.  (Meat should sizzle and start to cook right away, but not smoke a great deal.)  Turn meat as necessary so that each side is browned and most of the meat is seared at least a little.  Remove meat with a slotted spoon and place in the crockpot.  Add the onions to the skillet and saute for about a minute.  Add half of the wine to the skillet, stirring to release any particles at the bottom of the pan. Add contents of pan to the crockpot.  Place remaining ingredients, except the rice or noodles, into the crockpot.  Cover the crockpot and cook meat on low for 6-8 hours, or on high for 2-4 hours.   Serve over rice or egg noodles.

This keeps well in the refrigerator or freezer and is delicious the next day.

 

Happy cooking!

~K

  

 

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I could eat these several times a week!

 I love beans.  I like them well-seasoned and:

  • plain
  • with french bread
  • with tortillas
  • with rice
  • with a “Rustic Italian Loaf”  (is there a “Sophisticated” or “Metropolitan” Italian Loaf out there?)
  • with cheeses, chutneys, salsas, sour cream, plain Greek-style yogurt, chow-chow, chopped jalapeno, chopped onion, crumbled bacon…
  • with cornbread
  • in soup

Beans are good!  If you like them too, try A Simple Pot of Beans to get started.  From there you can dress them up to your liking, make chili, vegetarian tacos and taco salad, soup, refried beans, or as the starting point for this easy, delicious soup.

Creamy Bean and Vegetable Soup

  • 1 Recipe A Simple Pot of Beans
  • 1/2 cup of heavy cream (optional; adds a little bit of richness and makes it extra-delicious, but you can leave it out for a vegan and/or lactose-free option)

 

Prepare A Simple Pot of Beans, retaining the cooked carrots and garlic at the end of the cooking time.

Place enough cooked beans and broth in a blender to equal 2 cups.  Add the carrots, garlic and cream.  (If not using cream, add about a half-cup more of cooking liquid.)  Puree the mixture, adding broth as necessary to achieve a smooth texture.  Return puree to the pot of beans and heat mixture on low until heated through, careful not to boil.

Garnish with slight swirls of cream and chopped green onion.

Happy cooking,

~K

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NOTE:  When I originally posted this recipe, the soaking and cooking information was specific to the beans I used in the pictured soup.  This was a mistake. Dried beans may vary in the time they require for both soaking and cooking.  Packaged dried beans usually include these specific directions, but if not, or if you purchase beans in bulk, please consult this excellent site to determine the best soaking and cooking times for your beans.  I am deeply sorry if your Simple Pot of Beans was ruined due to my inadequate directions. ~K  

Once I described to my friend a favorite meal of my Mom’s pinto beans.  She laughed and called me a country-girl!  It was the first time I realized that not everyone thinks that a simple meal of deliciously seasoned beans is near perfection.   If you do, however, you might appreciate this recipe.  It’s simple, inexpensive and the results are delicious and versatile.  

A Simple Pot of Beans  

  • 1 lb dried beans (white, pinto, black, etc.)
  • 3 stalks of celery; if possible, include the leaves
  • 3 large carrots, quartered
  • 1 medium onion
  • 3 good-sized cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. black peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2-4 cups of  low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock
  • Salt, to taste
  • Optional toppings:  sour cream, plain yogurt (I love Fage Greek-style, 2%), shredded cheese, salsas, chutneys, chopped onions, crumbled bacon…

   

Thoroughly rinse beans, checking for bits of dirt, or even small pebbles.  Place beans in a large soup pot or dutch oven and cover with cold water.  Leave the beans to soak overnight.  In the morning, drain the beans and rinse once again.   

Place beans back into pot and cover with water up to one inch past the top of the beans.  Add the remaining ingredients through the bay leaf.  Add two cups of stock if additional flavor is desired (recommended, but not necessary).   

Bring beans to a low boil, then cover, with the lid slightly tilted, and reduce heat to medium low so that beans remain at a simmer.  Add additional stock or water as necessary to keep beans covered by about an inch of water.   

I try to fish out all of the peppercorns as well, but I usually miss a few. The cooking time is long enough to elminate their biting heat, but I'm always concerned that someone will catch a fiery one!

For the exact cooking time, check the package of beans, or consult this site which lists soaking and cooking times for all varieties of dried beans  

Remove garlic, vegetables and bay leaf from pot.  The carrots and garlic can be retained and pureed with some of the beans for this soup.  If needed, season with salt to taste.    

Add as many toppings as you like or eat them unadorned.  I strongly suggest a side of your favorite bread for a simple, delicious, hearty meal!  

NOTE:  These beans keep quite well in refrigerator and freezer.  I like to store some away to use with Taco Salad and Chili at another time.  

Happy Eating!  

~K

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There’s a serious problem in our society, a matter of neglect and misuse that no one is talking about.  There are no celebrity campaigns or colored bracelets.  Mainstream media won’t touch this story! 

But I’m bringing it out in the open right now. 

It’s about recipes and the horrifying number of people who refuse to use them.  All across our country people are sitting down to food that is anything from merely palatable to downright repulsive simply because someone felt a little creative and decided to “wing it” in the kitchen!  Meanwhile, a cookbook leans forlornly on a dusty shelf, its pages still as crisp and clean as when it was printed.

I’ll have more– much more–to say about this urgent issue in a  later post, but in the meantime, rescue a recipe and give it a try! 

~K

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I finally did it. 

For these, Shakespeare would have composed a sonnet. I'd give it a shot, but I'm too busy running off the two pans I consumed last week.

I first discovered the recipe several months ago on The Pioneer Woman’s site.  They looked incredible,  but seven pans of yeasty, cinnamon-sugary rolls dripping with maple, coffeee-laced frosting seemed a bit dangerous. 

Knowing my proclivity for all things sugar, cinnamon and coffee-flavored, I knew I could not make those rolls unless I was prepared to give away at least six pans.  That would leave one pan for my household:  half for my family and the other half for me! 

So, with my magnanimous plan in place, I got to work and produced my first ever cinnamon rolls.  Just as I feared, they were so delicious I had to wrench the pans from my own fingers in order to give them away.  In fact, only four pans made it out of my kitchen. Sweet, buttery, light rolls, a  simple cinnamon-sugar filling and a subtly flavored frosting that took the rolls from tasty to addictive.   (Seriously, I might need a 12-step program to deal with that frosting.)  And, just as I had hoped,  they were easy!  If you can pour, scoop, stir and play with play dough, you can make these cinnamon rolls.  

Though I fell in love with the frosting--worthy of its own sonnet, I thought this amount of frosting was just right; a generous drizzle rather than a drowning.

Please don’t be intimidated by the yeast.   Do you sometimes break out into a sweat just reading a recipe that calls for yeast?  The instructions often demand a precise temperature for the liquid. Do you fear nothing in your kitchen will ever go right again if you hit the wrong temp and kill your yeast?  The Pioneer Woman makes it simple:  the liquid needs to be lukewarm or warm, “not hot.”  Easy. No sweat!  The rest is all mixing, waiting, rolling and sprinkling.  

Now, based on what I gleaned from reading through many of the comments on The Pioneer Woman’s cinnamon roll post, I guessed that the rolls would be a little two sweet for me. So I made the following adjustments: decreased the sugar in the actual rolls to 3/4 cup; reduced the sugar in the filling by 1/2; used only half of the frosting recipe to top the rolls. 

The result?  They were still a little two sweet for me.  Next time I make them I will try to further reduce the sugar as well as increase the cinnamon in the filling and the coffee in the icing. 

For the recipe and detailed illustrations of each step, visit here.  If you like cinnamon rolls, give it a shot.  The fragrance that will grace your home while these rolls bake is not to be missed! 

~K 

PS:  Not to beat a dead horse, but that frosting is too yummy to be limited to just topping cinnamon rolls. I can vouch that it’s a tasty dip for:  strawberries, bananas, apples, animal crackers, graham crackers,  and pretzels.

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