Monday, June 25, 2012

Continuation on a Theme...

Continuing last week's theme of breakfast from a muffin tin that's not a muffin, I made these little baked eggs for the boys and myself yesterday:

These are so simple, it hardly counts as a recipe, which I guess makes up for that time hog last week...

Baked Eggs in Toast
4 Slices of bread
4 oz of cheddar cheese, shredded
4 eggs
onions, optional
salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Put a small pat of butter in each muffin cup. Use a rolling pin to roll bread flat.  Cut a round shape out of each piece of bread using a cup or a cutter with a 3 1/2 inch diameter.  Place each circle in the muffin tin cups on top of the butter.  Add an ounce of cheese to each bread cup.  Crack an egg in each cup and season with salt and pepper.  Add onions on top if you want them.  In the remaining cups of the muffin tin, place the scraps of bread for dipping toasts.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until whites have turned white and are still a little jiggly.  If you don't like runny yolk, bake it to 30 minutes, the yolk will harden to a soft cooked state and will still be very yummy!

If you've got a stronger tasting cheese, it would probably be great in this as the cheddar got a little lost.  I didn't happen to have anything on hand, but maybe goat cheese or swiss?

My boys were a little sketchy about this thing at first.  I had to encourage Mr. 4 that there was cheese underneath the egg before he would even put a fork in it.  They both went back and forth as to whether they liked it or not, but I think the daisy ended up coming out "He loves me."  For my part, I liked it!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vegetables for Breakfast...

     I've been noodling over the idea of vegetables for breakfast lately.  How many vegetables do you think about as breakfast food?  Potatoes of course.  Maybe onions, or spinach or asparagus.  Now what would you do if you didn't have any eggs?  Because that was the boat I was in on Father's Day...  My farmer's market is on Sunday.  I used the last egg on Saturday.  I had some duck eggs, but hubby doesn't like them a super lot.  I use them for baking, which they are awesome for.  So rich!  But anyway, I was down to a few veg and that was about it.

Let me further explain by showing you this:

Strawberry Cake with Blueberry Frosting and Strawberry Frosting Filling.  
Looks OK from the outside, right?

And this:

See how thick that frosting is?  Yeah...  My cake had some issues...

     Hubby's birthday was last week.  He loves strawberry cake.  I would rather lick my shoe than eat a boxed strawberry cake.  So I endeavored to make him one.  I picked a yellow cake recipe and subbed strawberries in syrup (homemade of course) for the milk.  Apparently milk is important because it totally sank in the middle.  But oh my gosh was it delicious!  I will be revising this ugly duckling for sure.  At any rate, following the collapsed (if delicious) Birthday cake fiasco, I was hoping to make him something that was delicious and beautiful for Father's Day.

So I made this:

Hello, Gorgeous...

Pastry on the bottom, vegetables in the middle, bacon, and homemade herbed ricotta on top.  I will never be sad we're out of eggs again.  This could be called a "tart," I suppose.  I'm just calling it "brekky."

This particular recipe took a long time to make.  If you make the dough a day ahead and use leftovers for the filling, everything will go much faster the day of.  As it was, I didn't have any leftovers suitable, plus, he was sleeping in, so I had time.

The vegetables I had were potatoes, sweet potatoes, asparagus, onion, garlic, and mushrooms.  And bacon.  A highly underrated vegetable. I made an oatmeal crust following Mark Bittman's recipe in his book How to Cook Everything Vegetarian (p.866). 

Father's Day Brekky
Oatmeal Crust:
1/2 C + 2Tbs white flour
1/4 C whole wheat flour
1/4 C oatmeal
8 Tbs cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
3 Tbs ice water, plus more if necessary

1 medium sweet potato, peeled
1 medium white potato, peeled
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
2 pieces of bacon
4 button mushrooms
1 bundle of asparagus
olive oil (a drizzle here, a drizzle there...)

Herbed Homemade Ricotta Cheese:
1 C cream
2 C whole milk
1 1/2 T lemon juice

Make the ricotta.  I already had some in my fridge.  I used this recipe from Zestuous.  It would definitely help to make this the day before.  Even though the process is quick (about 35 minutes), it will add quite a bit of time to the process for this recipe if you make it the same day.  And can I just say here that this is the best ricotta cheese I've ever had in my entire life?  You will never want to use store-bought again.  Save the milk, too.  It's to die for.

Preheat oven to 400°.

Begin by making the crust:
Combine the four, salt, and sugar in a food processor and pulse once or twice.  Add the butter and turn on the machine; process until the butter and flour are blended and the mixture looks like cornmeal, about 10 seconds.

Put the mixture in a bowl and add 3 Tbs ice water; mix with your hands until you can form the dough into a ball, adding another tablespoon or two of the ice water if neccessary (if you overdo it and the mixture becomes sodden, add a little more more flour).  Form into a ball, wrap in plastic, and freeze for 10 minutes or refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.  (You can refrigerate for up to a couple of days or freeze for up to a couple of weeks.)

Next, make potatoes:
Thinly slice sweet and white potatoes, lightly toss in olive oil and salt, cover with aluminum foil, and put into preheated oven.  I put mine on two different sheets in case they took different times cooking.

Begin onions:
Thinly slice with a mandolin if possible, and caramelize over low heat (can take up to 1/2 hour).

While onions are caramelizing, chop bacon roughly, mince mushrooms, and thinly slice asparagus to about 1/2 inch.


At this point, put garlic on a little foil and drizzle with a splash of olive oil.  Wrap garlic and place on top rack of oven with potatoes.

Once onions have finished, remove to a medium sized bowl and fry bacon pieces until crispy, and put those in a small bowl.  Wash pan and sauté mushrooms in a tad bit of olive oil, put those in the medium bowl with the onions, then heat the asparagus until slightly softened and add to veggie bowl.

Check potatoes and garlic for doneness...  If potatoes are tender (don't worry if some have gotten a little crispy), remove to a cutting board and chop into small pieces.  Add to veggie bowl.  If garlic is tender, squish from skin and mash lightly.  Add to veggie bowl.  Lower oven to 350°.

Stir contents of veggie bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Use one heaping tsp of ricotta cheese per tart you plan to make and 1/2 tsp of thyme per every six tarts.  Combine ricotta and thyme.

Once dough has finished resting, roll it out and cut rounds to fill the cupcake tin cups (I found I needed to knead the dough a few times to encourage it to hold together, less than a minute, I'd say...).  I used a glass with a diameter of about 3 1/2 inches which ended up being nearly perfect for my standard size cupcake tins.

Fill the cups with veggies, top with bacon (or not) and add a dollop of the ricotta cheese mixture.  Bake at 350° for 30-45 minutes, until crust is done.  Let cool slightly in pan, then pop them out with a butter knife.  Serve with a little fruit.

Tadaaaaa!  I probably could have gotten a dozen of these puppies made if one of my kids hadn't sneezed on the second half of the dough.  So we ended up with six.  I really wanted those other six.

This would be much easier if you had some leftovers to fill it with.  Cooked sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, left-over steamed veggies, maybe even leftover garbanzo beans or lentils...  Use whatever filling you like, these will be fabulous.

One kid wouldn't touch it.  The other kid had a couple of bites, but decided to save himself for the samples at the farmer's market.  Hubby and I wonder what's wrong with these kids sometimes because these were fantastic!  The homemade ricotta just makes it.  The pastry is perfect, the veggies are wonderful, and hubby says the bacon adds a nice "breakfasty" touch to the whole proceeding.  The sweet potatoes are a lovely way to have a little something sweet for breakfast without any added sugar.

PS, Happy First Day of Summer to those of you who live where Summer happens!  For us up here in the Pacific Northwest a big, Hey, Wazzup Juneuary?!  Maybe we'll break 60 today!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Yogurt the Magnificent!

     Unlike the butter post in which cream became butter in a matter of moments, this week's yogurt process is an exercise in patience.  But not too much if you do it at night.  Then, it's an exercise in sleeping.  My favorite kind of exercise...

     A few years ago, I found a blog called Crockpot 365.  This dear lady posted a new crockpot recipe a day for 365 days.  And one of the things she made was yogurt.  Oh My.  Her method required a timer and since I never, ever, ever, ever, *sigh* ever remember to set mine, I found another blog post at wikihow with temperatures for making yogurt.  I like how simple the crockpot recipe is, but it takes a lot of baby sitting that I generally don't have the patience for.  And there are a lot of steps in the wikihow article I also really don't feel like messing around with.  Recently, I came up with my own method for making yogurt using a mixture of these two methods and this is how it goes:

You'll need:
Yogurt culture
Milk, any kind will do, even non-fat*
Crock Pot
Large heavy bottomed pot
Container for storing your yogurt in

     Acquire yogurt culture.  You can buy powdered culture, but most people just buy a small carton of plain yogurt at the store.  I have found my very favorite yogurt for starting a batch is Dannon.  Don't ask me why, I actually don't like it by itself.  But something in it makes the best-tasting homemade batch to start off.  Be sure to save 1/2 C of your yogurt to be the base for your next batch.  If you forget or it goes bad before you are ready to make your next batch, just start again with store-bought!  For this demonstration, I am using yogurt left over from my last batch.  Because I'm cool like that.

     Heat milk to 185° in a heavy bottomed pot, stirring with a whisk the whole time to keep it from burning.  I put mine on high heat so it heats up faster (5-7 minutes)  If you are uncomfortable with using high heat, by all means, use lower heat, but you will have to stand there stirring longer.  You don't have to use raw milk, I just thought I'd give it a try this time and found I really like it!  You can use any kind of milk whole, non-fat or anywhere in between, *but not ultra-pasteurized.  Apparently, the ultra-pasteuriziation process, in addition to making it taste weird, kills everything in it.  Since yogurt requires bacterial action, U-P milk just won't work.

Just in case you need to know what it looks like to pour milk into a pot...

This is what stirring with a whisk looks like...

When milk reaches 185°, remove from heat and pour into room temperature crock pot.  Remove yogurt from fridge and leave on counter to warm up. 

Milk getting poured again.  Groundbreaking, right?

When milk cools down to between 110 and 90 degrees, whisk culture into warmed milk.   Depending on the temperature of your room, this can take an hour to an hour and a half.

You see this?  This is a highly adequate picture of what it looks like when you put the lid on your crockpot...

Cover and wrap in insulated bag or towels.  Let sit at least 8 hours.  The longer you let it sit, the firmer it will be.

     This is what mine looked like the next day.  I let it sit for quite a while since I got knocked on my tail by a cold between starting the yogurt and getting around to opening it up.  Nearly 18 hours, I estimate.  You can see the cream layer on this whole milk yogurt.  A half gallon of milk will yield approximately the same amount of yogurt.

     If you see some yellow water-y looking stuff floating on top of your yogurt this is perfectly normal.  It stands to reason that the one time I actually wanted to see it so I could photograph it for you guys I didn't get any!  This is the first time this has ever happened...  Maybe the longer sitting time?  Anyway, I use a big spoon to scoop it out, as I like my yogurt a little thicker.  You can stir it in if you want.  If you want your yogurt even thicker, many people add a little powdered milk to theirs, though I never have.  On rare occasion, I strain mine through some cheese cloth or coffee filters to make it extra thick, but I feel like it wastes a lot of yogurt to do this (reduces the volume by more than half) so while it's delicious, I save that for special occasions.

My youngest son's favorite breakfast of all time...

     Occasionally I have had the milk not set.  Perhaps the yogurt was added when the milk was too warm, or maybe the culture was bad.  Once, I had it turn out pink.  In either of these cases, (especially the pink one) it's best to throw it out and start again.  That said, I've only had those results maybe three times in the years I've been making my own yogurt.

     But when it works (and it totally will, trust me) it's another one of those funny little miracles in the kitchen.  You buy it in the store for years, but you never think about how simple it is to make all your own.

     This yogurt beats the pants off anything you've ever bought.  Not sour at all, just creamy and wonderful.  If you don't want to eat it just plain, we have used fruit, agave nectar, honey, sucanat, and pure maple syrup as sweeteners.  I also like cinnamon and vanilla as flavorings.  You can use this in Indian cooking (Raita, anyone?), baking, smoothie creation,  and also apparently as a facial and a hair conditioner.  Eh.  Who knew?

     One last note, I've never done it, but it seems homemade soy yogurt is a thing that people out there make.  It appears to be a similar process and relatively simple, but you have to add a thickener like agar flakes.  And I hear, sometimes it involves a microwave...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Congratulations, Winners!

 Everybody give it up for Donna Crepps and Dwayne Williams! 
Congratulations you two!  Please e-mail me with your e-mail addresses and I will send you some more information.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Give it away, Give it away, Give it away, Now!

Today, boys and girls, your very good friend and mine, Yours Truly, has a blog post up on the America's Test Kitchen Website, The Feed

     Back in March, I won a scholarship to the new ATK Online Cooking School.  Before you ask, no, there is no certificate for finishing.  And no, it's not a school school where you have to sit still, face forward, and turn in assignments on time.  It's utopia school where you log in, learn what you want to learn, take whatever tests you want to take (there are quizzes), and your dog doesn't eat your homework, you do!  Mwahahahahahaaaaa!  I don't know why it needed an evil scientist laugh there, it just did.  Too much Phineas and Ferb lately, methinks...


 A good place to start is the knife skills lesson.

 Cuban Black Beans and Rice.  I vegetarianized this one.  ¡Ay, Caramba!

Made this last week.  Pepper-Crusted Filet Mignon with Blue Cheese-Chive Butter.  You heard me.

One of our guests said it was like eating at a restaurant.  I said, "Those guys at America's Test Kitchen know what they're doing."

Saturday morning's breakfast.  This technique I actually managed to botch.  More than once.  My husband and children are terrified when I tell them I'm poaching eggs.  Even with the super-awesome ATK method, I needed a little practice.  But now that they're starting to turn out right, ooooohhhh man....I get to eat them because everyone else is afraid.  HAH!  Strategy, I tell you.

Three lessons in one meal: Chicken Saltimbocca (Chicken, Italian Style),  Arugula Salad with Figs, Prosciutto, Walnuts, and Parmesan (Italian Salads and Vegetables), and Olive-Rosemary Bread (Rustic Italian Breads).  My husband says I need to make more meals with prosciutto on them.

[No Picture Here]
I also made homemade gnocchi which we commenced to consume entirely before I could take a picture of it...growf!

     Oh yeah, I also did a whole lesson worth of Steaming and Poaching which I talk about over on that super cool ATK blog post I mentioned before.  And you know what else?  You guys can, too!  That's right!  America's Test Kitchen Online Cooking School is giving me two 60-day free trial scholarships to give away to YOU!  Follow me on Facebook if you don't already, then leave a comment here.  If you are already a follower, just leave a comment here!  Even if you don't want to win, leave a comment here (it makes me warm and gooey inside...)!  And lo, on June 8th two numbers shall be generated and thine own number may be selected, forsooth.  Good Luck!

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