Quick Rice Pilaf

A friend of mine showed me an article in the NYTimes about Procrastibaking. Good article; you should read it. I don’t work from home but I do have urges to bake in order to avoid things like…deep housecleaning, another load of laundry, clearing out the sewing room, sorting books from the shelves to give away to the library. I love books. I love having several books piled askew on the coffee table, bedside stand, etc. It is very hard to give away books.

I read the article; I baked brownies. I may bake blondies as well. Depends on what else I want to put off doing…

But this is not about books. Well, I do write about recipes from my 50+ cookbooks. (These are not being sorted through to give away. Not yet.) I find that I have been cooking less from recipe books. I throw things together and may look something up for an idea of a flavoring or additional ingredient. So for supper I wanted to make rice along with the vegetables and I made a pilaf, AKA rice with peas and carrots. 🙂

  • bag of instant brown rice (Success is the brand, 10 minutes in boiling water and its done)
  • 1-2 cups frozen peas and carrots
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • a few colorful peppers, chopped, I used 3 red mini-peppers and 1 yellow mini-pepper
  • olive oil for the pan
  • a few shakes of soy sauce

Cook the rice. Put oil in a skillet and saute the onion and peppers. Stir these a bit. When they have a few nicely browned bits, add the peas and carrots. Stir and add the soy sauce. Mix with the hot rice. Voila!

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Apple Crunch Pie

I made an apple pie with a crunch topping. I was trying to make a crumb topping but it was very crunchy, tasty but very crunchy. I had a bunch of apples that needed to be made into a pie or a brown betty. Hubby voted for pie. There were some Empire, some Gala, and some Granny Smith apples. I sliced up about eight of them which made 4 cups. I had a pre-made, bought pie crust, just one so I had to make a topping.

I made the Cinnamon Add-a-Crunch topping from my handy-dandy Quaker Oats cook booklet. Thinking on it now, the “add-a-Crunch” should have given me a hint as to the outcome! I love crumb toppings that use melted butter. Makes it so much easier to mix than “cut together with fork until resembles…”

  • 1 1/4 cups quick or old-fashioned oats, uncooked
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup wheat germ (I actually have this! It’s great to sprinkle over the waffle batter before you close the lid on the waffle iron.)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

The actual recipe says mix this together and cook in skillet for 5-7 minutes and then spread on cookie sheet to cool. I figured it would cook on the pie so I just mixed it all together and added 1 cup of chopped walnuts as well.

Make your apple pie. Spread this topping on top. Bake your apple pie. Voila! Very pretty.

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My pie was tasty but the apples did not meld together in any fashion. I had to serve this in bowls. I may have forgotten to pat the top of the apples with butter, but that can’t have been the problem. I never cook my pie fillings first and other apple pies have turned out like pies. I don’t make apple pies frequently enough to experiment like America’s Test Kitchen. I have had this same problem once or twice before which I attributed to the type of apple and/or size of the apple slices. But I sliced these apples in thin slices.

We ate the pie. We enjoyed the pie. It just wouldn’t have won any prizes!

Spaghetti Pie

Hello all! I have not posted for awhile. One would think that writing would be a good way to get relief from the stress and burn out from work, but I apparently did not have the discipline to do so. So here I am again. One of the difficulties is that I will make and bake the same things again and again. There’s not much new or interesting in writing about that. I searched my blog and do not believe that I have told you about Hubby’s way of managing leftover spaghetti. Techniquely this is not “spaghetti” pie in that I made it with elbow macaroni but this will have to do.

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So on a Monday I sliced up two green peppers, one red pepper, and two onions. I put these in the crock pot along with one 14.5 ounce can of stewed tomatoes, one 8 ounce can of tomato sauce, and 1 teaspoon of Italian Seasoning. Oh, and 6 sweet Italian sausage links. These cooked on low while I was at work for 8-10 hours. The aroma was wonderful when I walked in the door in the late afternoon.

When I put all this together I was not sure if we would be eating the sausages on bread as sandwiches or over pasta. Being uncertain when I got home I cooked too much pasta. And Hubby was correct, we did not have spaghetti noodles, but we had oodles of elbow macaroni noodles. We had our dinner of pasta and sausage sauce.

Leftovers make a spaghetti pie. Depending on the amount of leftovers we will alter the amount of additives. Lots of leftovers make a 9 x 13 inch pan. Not so much, we use a pie pan.

Gather any leftover meats and vegetables and cheese you need to use up. We’ve had a leftover pork chop, ham, breakfast sausage in our pie before. Clean out that produce drawer,  mushrooms and half chopped onions work well here, carrots too. Add these to your leftover pasta. If needed add a can of diced tomatoes or tomato sauce. I use 2 cups or so frozen mixed vegetables also. Mix in 2 eggs for a pie pan, 4 eggs for the bigger pan. Place the entire mixture into your pan. Top with grated or sliced cheese if desired. Cover with foil. Bake in 350 degree oven for 45-60 minutes. Remove the foil for the last 15 minutes. Dinner is served!

 

Honey Gingerbread

Another recipe adapted from Eating Well Magazine Spring 2004.

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (This is because I did not have ground cloves and I figured this would take place of the 1/2 t. nutmeg, 1 1/2 t. cinnamon, and 1/2 t. cloves. Now, in hindsight, I could have used my Gingerbread Spice Mix. Live and learn!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup packed brown sugar ( I had light brown)
  • 1/2 cup honey (I had a wildflower honey not the dark honey of the original recipe which also called for 2/3 cup. I used all that I had.)
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 teaspoons orange zest (instead of lemon zest; again I used what I had.)
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional but I love crystallized ginger so I have thi in the house. It is wonderful to chew on a small piece for a snack.)

Prepare a 9 x 13 inch pan by spraying with cooking spray. Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk dry ingredients. Beat together the eggs, oil, honey, and brown sugar. Blend the dry ingredients with the egg mixture and zest. Add boiling water as you go along. Mix just until fully blended. I used my stand mixer and this took a very short time.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30 minutes. The top should spring back lightly when touched. Cool in pan on wire rack.

Our first piece we ate warm. It is a light version. The honey does not give quite the same flavor as molasses. I could taste the orange zest which surprised me. I would call this a honey ginger cake. The bits of crystallized ginger were very tasty. Hubby liked it a lot. He said an addition of raisins would have put it over the top. I would make this again.

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Chicken in Orange Sauce

This is a recipe from Eating Well Magazine Spring 2004. I was browsing through the magazines for interesting recipes. I have chicken and I have orange juice, so that is close enough. The manner of making the orange sauce is something different that just thickening juice with cornstarch. And of course just a few of the ingredients change. Actually the amount of the liquids were changed. I just thought 4 cups of liquid would make too much sauce.

  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • cooking spray to coat the pan and to spray on the chicken
  • salt and pepper to season the chicken

Place chicken thighs in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray or lightly oiled. Spray the chicken and season with salt and pepper. Bake in a 375 degree F oven for 35 minutes.

Meanwhile make the sauce.

  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar

Put the sugar and the vinegar in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. Do not stir, but swirl the pan from time to time until the sugar melts and turns a nice deep amber color. This should take 6-8 minutes. Add the broth and juice and bring to a boil. The caramel will harden but do not worry about that. It does soften as the cooking continues. This should be cooked 30-35 minutes until it is reduced and lightly coats a spoon. It smells wonderful at this point.

After the chicken has cooked its initial 35 minutes, pour the sauce on top. Turn the pieces so they are nicely coated. This is a thin coat. Bake 10-15 more minutes. I baked them until Hubby came home so that was just over 15 minutes.

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I served this with a tri-color quinoa and green beans. I am trying to have us sit at the kitchen table to eat our dinner. This is to prevent our backsides from becoming one with the sofa too early in the evening! We are binge watching the Inspector Lewis series from Masterpiece Theater from a few years back. Love that Sergeant Hathaway!

 

 

Dry-aged steaks

I was reading, again, my various Cook’s Illustrated magazines looking for seasonal recipes to try. A magazine reader had written in about dry-aged steaks and wondered if this could be done at home. (Reference the March-April 2010 edition of the magazine). The editors replied about their efforts and I decided to give it a try.

  • 2 top sirloin steaks (about 6 ounces each?)

Wrap thoroughly with cheesecloth and place on a rack in the back of the refrigerator (where it is coldest) for four days. Pan sear and enjoy. Supposedly these are tender and intensely flavorful like the more expensive dry-aged steaks. Cook’s used 2 rib-eye and 2 strip steaks.

  • I put mine in the fridge on a Monday and we cooked them on a Saturday so that was a bit longer than the magazine.
  • I wrapped mine while they were still frozen.
  • They had a nice flavor but were not particularly moist or tender.
  • Hubby says the verdict is still out as these were some of the leftover pieces from a top sirloin butt that he had cut up earlier this year.
  • He would like to try this with rib-eyes.

 

Chocolate Mousse Cake a la King Arthur

King Arthur Flour (no I do not get paid for talking about them) has a monthly bake-along. February is a Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. Looked and sounded delicious and something fun to make on one of my two February holidays. Well, if you know me, I changed it up just a bit. I was not going to spend a fortune on fresh raspberries in the middle of winter. I like chocolate covered cherries and I had a can of cherries in my pantry. I could use those.

So the original bake-along recipe is right here: Chocolate Mousse Cake with Raspberries. I made the cake exactly. I happened to find four 8-inch cake pans, two of which were three inches deep so I baked the cake in two pans and cut these into the four layers. Hint for you: this is a thin batter just like they say. It may not be that wise to use pans that have removable bottoms. Just saying. I had a bit of leakage, very little but I had to bake the cakes on a cookie sheet. I also baked the cakes at 350 degrees F. They came out nicely. They did not have domes, so I am not sure if they fell a bit. The finished product is so rich it was impossible to tell.

  • 1 3/4 cups Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 large eggs

Whisk dry ingredient together. Mix wet ingredients together but not eggs. Put wet ingredients into dry ingredients, combine thoroughly. Beat in eggs one at a time. Put into the greased pans and bake. The two 8-inch x 3-inch pans took 55 minutes. Cool completely and slice each layer in two.

The mousse filling was more difficult. It did not come out smoothly and was difficult to spread between the layers of the cake.

  • 2 tablespoons soft butter
  • 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted
  • 1 cup heavy cream

Beat the butter, cream cheese, 3/4 cup sugar, vanilla and salt until creamy. Melt the chocolate and stir that in. Whip the cream with the remaining sugar until stiff. Fold this into the cream cheese mixture. This ended up swirled and not a uniform color. Perhaps that was okay.

I used a can of cherries, drained, and a jar of cherry fruit spread instead of raspberries. I mixed this and spread it on top of the mousse layer. I forgot to put cherries on the middle layer. I don’t think anyone noticed this omission.

Once this is done chill or freeze the cake for 30 minutes so it will be easier to frost.

At this point I am thinking about the frosting. This cake already looks extraordinarily rich. The KAF frosting calls for another cup of butter and 4 cups powdered sugar. That just is too much. I then remember I had made a chocolate sauce to serve with the disastrous orange cake for Christmas. Since that cake was inedible I had frozen the sauce for use at another time. This seemed to be that “another time.”

  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon orange extract or liqueur (it was actually the poaching syrup from the disastrous orange cake A Christmas Sponge: an Orange Upside Down Cake)

Whisk sugar and cocoa in a small sauce pan. Gradually whisk in the milk until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat and simmer whisking constantly for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate and orange extract. (the orange taste does not come through at all.)

So I thawed the chocolate sauce and poured it out on the cake. This gave it a nice glazed cover. Now this glaze looks like a ganache but does not firm up like one.

This is not nearly as good looking as the picture on the King Arthur website. But served with a bit of whipped cream it is chocolate decadence! A little dab will do ya!

Lessons learned: If you want a rich chocolate cake that makes thick layers use this cake recipe. I would make a different filling or just use the fruit and preserves in between layers with some whipped cream. Cover with your own ganache or just sprinkle with powdered sugar. That way you could have a fancy cake with less fuss. But we are enjoying our indulgence a little at a time. Store cake in refrigerator.