27 October, 2011

Maple-Mustard Seared Chicken

My Grandma Jo used to that "anything that takes longer to cook than it does to eat isn't worth the fuss".  I heard that from my mom a bajillion times which is a rich statement coming from someone that makes caramel corn by the roaster oven full.  It takes 1 hour to make a batch and about 30 minutes for a large family to kill the whole tin.  Heck, we even used to pour milk on it and eat it like cereal.  I'll make it sometime for my flog...

At any rate, the other night I was in the mood for real home cooked food.  I'm not sure what brings that on, but I don't fight it anymore.  I looked through the cupboards and had a plan in no time flat.  Baked acorn squash,  roasted baby red potatoes and pan seared chicken breasts.  Doesn't sound that fun, but give me a minute or ten and we'll see what we can do with this typically boring menu.

Olive Oil Roasted Acorn Squash
2 medium sized fresh acorn squash
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
Fresh cracked black pepper
Fresh cracked sea salt

Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Let's begin with the potatoes and the squash.  They really need to be doing their thing in the oven while you're messing about with the chicken and sauce.  SO!...first lob BOTH ends off your acorn squash; top and bottom.  This allows them to lay flat in the roaster pan.  Once you have sliced the ends off, cut it clean in the middle.  Spoon out the guts into the trash, unless you are a fan of toasted seeds.  If so, put them into a bowl to be dealt with later.

They should look something like this before getting seasoned.

When they are ready to be seasoned turn them hollow side up and rub the inside of each half with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, making sure you cover every speck of orange with olive oil.  Then sprinkle liberally with fresh cracked peppercorns and sea salt.

Now that might look like TOO much, but trust me, it won't be.  In point of fact, once you spoon this out to serve you may want to have the salt and pepper at the table.  Next, put a small amount of water in the bottom of this roaster.  Just until the bottom has no spots of pan that aren't covered with water.  Then cover the whole pan with a huge piece of tin foil.  This creates a perfect steam oven so your squash doesn't dry out.  Put the lid on before you put it in the oven anyhow...just in case there is a leak in the foil.  Now set the roaster aside.

Olive Oil & Chive Roasted Baby Reds
2.5 lbs. medium sized baby red potatoes (you wouldn't believe how BIG these can be now)
1/4 c. dehydrated chive or 1/2 c. fresh snipped chive
Fresh cracked peppercorns
Fresh cracked sea salt
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

Get out your cuttin' board and get to slicing.  Try to cube these as best you can, no larger than 1.5 inches.  Toss them into a large bowl along with the chive, olive oil, pepper and salt.  Either with your hands or a large wooden spoon stir until the potatoes are well coated with the seasonings and the oil.  Turn them into a smaller roasting pan or a 9 x 13 cake pan will work just as well.  If the ratio of potato looks too small with all the seasonings and chive in there...your potatoes might have been smaller than what I call "medium", chop more if you feel the need.  Just make sure whatever pan you have that the lid can stay down securely.  If you are roasting these in a cake pan cover them snugly with tin foil.

Put the squash pan and the potatoes in the oven at the same time.  Bake them both for 15 minutes, then check them with a fork.  It is pretty important that you not mess with the potatoes in particular.  To open and close and open and close that foil on the potatoes and cause the heat to fluctuate by opening and closing the door a lot...your potatoes won't come out so crisp.  When they are forkable, take both pans out of the oven and set them aside.  Do not take anything out of these pans yet.  

Turn the temperature on the oven down to 275.

Maple-Mustard Seared Chicken
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp. sea salt
1 T. oil
2 T. vegan buttery spread, melted
1 T. all purpose flour
1 tsp. cornstarch
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
1 recipe of Maple-Mustard sauce (see below)

First, once these suckers are thawed pat them dry with paper towels.  Poke the thick ends of the chicken breasts with a fork.  Sprinkle each chicken breast with about a 1/2 tsp. of sea salt.  Place them rounded side down in a 9 x 13 inch baking pan.  (This will flatten them out a bit for the pan searing process later.)  Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a digital thermometer reads 145-150 degrees.

Once you remove the chicken turn the heat back up to 425 on the oven.  Place the squash and potatoes back in for 10 more minutes...use a timer that beeps lol...trust me!

Take the chicken breasts out of the oven and pat dry again with paper towels.  Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  While the pan is heating whisk the melted butter, flour, cornstarch and pepper together in a bowl.  Brush the tops of each chicken breast with this mixture.  Place the chicken in the skillet brushed side DOWN.  While that is searing away, brush the side facing you.  Cook each side at least 4 minutes so it gets a nice crisp on the outside.  Turn the heat down to medium and flip the breasts over, cooking another 4 minutes.

 Right before I flipped them over
Now for the easiest part of all, the Maple Mustard sauce.  This is pretty easy, just make sure the stuff you are using is close to high quality or this may not taste that great to you.  I only use organic condiments in my home, mostly to avoid the extra added sugars and preservatives that don't add a single dingle thing to the condiment but extra empty calories.  So I used a nice organic maple syrup for this and a stone ground spicy mustard.

Maple-Mustard Sauce
1/4 c. organic maple syrup
1/8 c. prepared mustard

You can heat this up in a pan or in the nuker, it is up to you.  But I've always been led to believe microwaving kills nutrients and flavor.  So...go with the pan.  Stir it until it is completely combined and heat it through.  Serve it on the side or over top of your chicken.  Try it before you slather it on anything.  Do you like it?  Does it need more maple in your opinion?  Perhaps more 'stard??  Make it taste good to YOU.  That's what all this effort was for!!  You and your family to enjoy a meal!

 Roasted Squash & Baby Reds w/ Pan Seared Maple-Mustard Chicken

Everyone loved this...even the Sprout.  My husband is usually hard to please with flavors.  NOTHING impresses him.  He really liked this.  Whew!  As long as it took me to type this...I didn't even work that hard in the kitchen people.  Seriously easy...unbelievably yummy and something that I am sure you'll make more than once.  You can make different sauces, change up the side dishes...but a good piece of pan seared chicken that is WONDERFULLY moist on the inside and fabulously crisp on the outside is sure to become a new family favorite!  Enjoy!

24 October, 2011

Jambalaya Baby!!

For whatever reason any dish with rice seems to be an alright thing to our Sprout these days, there is precious else he puts up with that isn't rice based or includes mashed potatoes on the plate.  It must be a "phase".  Either way, it didn't take me long to decide the other night to make a big ol' pot of Jambalaya for dinner.  I won't spend a lot of time blah, blah, blahing about choice of ingredients or anything else like that.  Jambalaya is a straightforward dish and you'd be hard pressed in any estimation to make this dish "wrong".  This recipe makes just about 6.5 cups of Jambalaya allowing you to feed 5 or 6 adults or 4 VERY hungry adults.  It is also a wonderful use of leftover chicken from a previous meal...or you could plan to make this ahead by making pan seared chicken breasts a couple nights before and adding extra chicken to the batch JUST so you can make this later in the week.  That's how I roll....

1 lb of raw peeled and deveined medium sized shrimp (21-30 pieces)
1/2 c. white onion, chopped
1/3 c. celery, chopped
1 small green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp. of minced garlic (2 cloves)
2 T. of canola oil
2 c. chicken, vegetable OR seafood stock
1 can of unsalted diced tomato, UNdrained
1 c. andouille sausage halved then cut into 1/2 in. slices
1 c. uncooked extra long grain white rice
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 c. smoked ham, cubed
1 c. cooked chicken breast, cubed

Thaw your shrimp if you bought it frozen and set it aside.  In a large pot cook your onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic in the canola oil until tender.  All at once add the stock, undrained tomatoes, sausage, rice, ALL your spices and the bay leaf to the pot.  Bring it the pot to a boil, then reduce your heat to low.  Cover and allow your pot to simmer for at least 15 minutes.  Check your rice, it shouldn't be crunchyish anymore before you add your shrimp.  It should be JUST minutes from being done.  Add your shrimp to the pot and bring it back to a boil.  Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down again to low, cover and let it simmer again for 5 minutes OR until your shrimp is cooked and the rice is tender.  When the rice seems tender enough add in your cubed ham and chicken; allow the ham to heat through completely.  Discard the bay leaf before serving.

I will say for my family we weren't so nuts about how much the seafood flavor stuck out against everything else when I made this with seafood stock rather than vegetable stock.  But, if you are a seafood lover, that may be right up your alley.  We like it with the chicken or the vegetable stock the best.  But, it is a personal preference.  Total time for this meal is less than an hour including the prep of chopping your veggies and meats and cooking it all.  It took me about 40 minutes start to finish.  Not bad when you have a 22 month old pulling at your leg the whole time; determined to NOT allow you to do anything but pay attention to him.  This is an easy dinner and we don't normally feel the need to have anything as a side with it.  If you have a larger family and need it to stretch you could easily pair this with a nice cornbread.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

22 October, 2011

Ooo, La, LA!

Last night was dreary and rainy...just the way I like it during the Autumn months.  I was ready for a break from cooking for the week so I went through my list and thought about how far I wanted to go from home.  Considering all my recent triumphs and disappointments since beginning my culinary assault on Ottawa, I wasn't in the mood to be let down tonight.  I spent 10 minutes researching...the fruit of my labor was La Osteria.

 Located just northwest of Dunrobin, La Osteria boasts a quaint, romantic location on Constance Bay Road.  From the second I pulled into their parking lot I was enchanted.  Walking in, I felt almost like I was in a massage studio.  A very quiet kitchen, dim lighting and soft voices of the other patrons greeted my weary self and family quite happily.  Before too long we were greeted by the hostess with the menu for the night and a high chair was situated for the Sprout.  I made my usual pleasantries, talking of the menu and the background of the restaurant itself.  I had a hard time deciding on my entree, but none on our starters.  We ordered Marinated Eggplant, Green Olives & Sun-dried Tomatoes and an order of Mini Meat Pies with Fresh Tomato Salsa.  I went from wanting the Maple, Mustard Pork to wanting the Spaghetti with Shrimp...  When it became known they were from Argentina my decision was made...Steak a la Plancha....rare.  If the people cooking my food were from Argentina, I knew my ticket to bliss was going to be beef.

Not too long after taking our order a lovely basket of focaccia and olives were on our table, looking and smelling fabulous.  The Sprout didn't make it through the prayer before he was motioning to the bread with some...ahem...fervent urging...for us to give him some of that yummy looking, great smelling stuff.

The olives were pitted, but that only added to their robust flavor.  Their focaccia was unbelievably soft and very aromatic.  We all loved it, the only thing that could have bettered it was to have been given MORE of it.  We made short time of the business of devouring it.  After this delightful beginning to the evening I decided that although it was a small place by any standards, I wanted to see what there was to see.

Not too long after taking my seat again our appetizers were in front of us; a visual delight!  But would the taste equal our anticipation?

Mini Meat Pies with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Marinated Eggplant, Green Olives & Sun-dried Tomatoes
 The requisite "OOOOOOhhh!" jaculated from the Sprout when the plates had been parked in front of me and my Mister.  As quickly as we could we cut up the mini meat pies into child sized bites the Sprout was making short work of them; my mister and I shared one between the two of us.  I can hardly identify the all seasonings that were in the meat other than to guess at cinnamon and/or cumin.  It really doesn't matter, their representation of an empanada was spectacular and done without flaw.  The pastry enveloping the meat was flaky and soft with a crisp texture that complimented the meat so well.  It was a perfect starter...  My Mister and I next applied ourselves to the marinated eggplant, green olive and sun-dried tomato tapas.  It is hard to describe in words the flavors and textures that literally exploded in my mouth.  The marinated eggplant was deliciously seasoned and the olive added the saltiness that the eggplant lacked and it was all highlighted with the sweetness interspersed throughout by the sun-dried tomatoes.  The balsamic reduction added a depth of flavor I didn't expect but thoroughly enjoyed.  Halfway through this course our entrees came out...

Steak a la Plancha

I have had steak ONE time since I have been in Ottawa before last night.  Previous to that and since that particular steak at the Empire Grill, I have been living in utter disbelief that only ONE place in this town knew how to cook a steak properly; I was glad that La Osteria was able to change my perception on the matter.  Ecstatic!  The only description of this dish was "sirloin steak seared in a cast iron pan"...no mention of its accompaniments.  I thought that was awfully risky and leaves the door wide open, through lack of description, for someone to pass up the opportunity to order it.  Some patrons don't like the work of having to ask what something "comes with", easy as it may be.  As you can clearly see, it came with potatoes in a rosemary & butter sauce and a vegetable combination of broccoli & carrots; also well buttered and seasoned.  The potatoes were smooth in texture and cooked to perfection.  The vegetables were tender crisp and obviously fresh.  The carrots were particularly sweet which was a nice surprise.  My steak was succulent, cooked to order and seasoned impeccably.  I couldn't think of a thing my dish was missing or that I would have done different.  In point of fact, this is only the second time since I have been in eating in this town that I haven't reached for the salt or pepper shaker for any reason during my meal.

La Osteria was one of the most pleasant dining experiences that we have had since we've been in the Ottawa area.  Don't let the size of their establishment fool you, their food is packed with flavor and they have a chef in their kitchen that means business.  I've heard this place described as a "best kept secret in the outskirts of Ottawa".  After experiencing it first hand I cannot argue and would add to it that it is NOT to be missed if you're ever in the Constance Bay area.  I highly recommend the steak; rare.  If you go, let me know what you ordered and how you liked it.  I will definitely be going back to try more of their dishes! 

La Osteria on Urbanspoon

20 October, 2011

Give Pork a CHANCE!!

For those of you that had the opportunity to try out the Dairy Free German Chocolate Cake recipe I posted last week, you know first hand how sweet that turned out...and nutty.  My Mister is NOT a fan of nuts in anything, especially NOT his sweet treats.  So, as you can imagine I have been the sole proprietor and devourer of said cake.  I think I gained 10 lbs since last week...  BUT! in light of that unfortunate set of events I soldiered on trying to find a sweet treat that would rope my Mister in without reservation...no leaving something out, so scraping something off...  I found it in the last place I expected to...a pound of bacon....

I honestly have thought every once in a while when I was eating a sweet roll of some sort that I needed something to cut the sweet.  I do not drink coffee and precious little herbal teas pass through my lips either...and quite frankly SALT is what I want to balance it out, not bitter.  Which brings us to our recipe today...  Bacon Sticky Biscuits.  

Now before you hit the loverly "X" up in the corner of your browser and pass up the opportunity to try this at LEAST once in your life, hear me out...or...read through the recipe and take a look at the pictures.  If you are the least bit curious as to how this would be received at your breakfast table...then...well, perhaps that only means you're not a cat.  Or you could just do me a small favor and give pork a chance!

Make sure your baking rack is dead center in your oven, unless you are aware of a hot spot or weak heating element, then preheat oven to 475 degrees.

Grease a round or square 8 or 9 inch cake pan.  
(I'll tell you I went with round because I had round plates to turn it onto when they were ready to come out of the pan...  If you have those squarish plates that are so popular these days...you may want to opt for the square cake pan.)

Soured Soy Milk
1 T. white vinegar
1 c. unsweetened soy milk, minus 1 T.

Pour white vinegar into 8 oz. glass measuring cup then add unsweetened soy milk to cup until the liquid hits the 8 oz. mark on the glass.  Stir once a minute for about 5 minutes.  The milk will seem thicker than normal, this is good.  This is a soy substitute for buttermilk.  If you have buttermilk and no one you're serving has a dairy allergy, feel free to use dairy for your recipe.

Biscuit Dough
2 c. organic all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. Earth's Best vegan buttery spread, cut into small cubes or pats
1 c. soured unsweetened soy milk

In a large mixing bowl whisk together your flour, soda and salt.  Using a pastry cutter or fork, blend the butter into the dry ingredients.  It should look like yellowish crumbs when it is ready for the milk to be added.  Make a small well and pour in the soured soy milk all at once.  Mix until JUST blended with a wooden spoon.  DO NOT use a mixer.  The more that biscuit dough is "handled" the tougher the dough will be when consumed.

1/2 lb. center cut bacon, cooked (do NOT overcook it as it continues to cook while baking)
1/2 c. organic fair trade brown sugar
1/3 c. organic pure maple syrup, warmed slightly
2 T. bacon grease drippings

After you have cooked the bacon, remove it to a paper towel to soak up the excess grease and allow it to cool enough for it to be held.  In the bowl you'll be using to mix your sauce, pour in 2 T. of the bacon drippings.  Add to that the sugar and warm syrup.  Stir until well blended or until it appears the sugar is well dissolved.  Using clean kitchen shears, snip your bacon strips into the bowl.  Mix the bacon into the sauce well, being sure that every single snip has been well incorporated into the sauce.  Pour immediately, while still slightly warm, into the bottom of the cake pan you're using.  Begin using a large spoon or spring loaded scooper to put the biscuit dough over the top of the sauce in the pan.  I usually use my medium Pampered Chef scoop for this particular recipe.  Depending on the size scoop you use you'll end up with between 12 and 20 biscuits.  Don't worry if they don't look very appetizing at this stage...  Mine didn't either as you can see below... 

Bake for 12 minutes and turn the oven off.  Leave it in the oven for 5 more minutes or until the peaks are nicely browned.  This time can fluctuate based on hot spots and weak heating elements in older ovens.  Just keep your eye on them, the biscuits won't lie.  Watch their color.

After they are done, remove from the oven and immediately turn out onto a plate that fits the shape of the pan used.  Round pan, round plate; square pan, squarish plate, otherwise you'll have a mess.  It is important to do this immediately while the sauce is still gooey.  When it begins to cool it will have a caramel consistency and you may have bacon sticking to the pan instead of the biscuits the longer you wait.

When they are done, they look something like this...

Now!  I'm sure you're wondering...how do you serve somethin like that?  By itself?  Sure, you could...  In fact, one of the first places I pictured someone making this and lovin it was hunting camp.  Make the dough ahead of time, make the sauce ahead, bring a stick of butter...cook it over a fire in a dutch oven.  What men wouldn't love that!?  No woman required (hopefully)!  But for more normal situations this could be made either ahead or the right before serving and be served for breakfast OR on a night when your family has made breakfast for dinner.  I have PLENTY of friends that do this.  One night a week is french toast or pancakes or the like.  Works out wonderfully when you're running out of genres of food to try.  I had this for breakfast this morning with scrambled eggs...

It was UNBELIEVABLY delicious and JUST the right amounts of sweet AND savory on my plate.  No need for separate toast AND bacon...   The crowning achievement here really was that my MISTER liked this.  Right away he was dreaming of all the different ways you could fiddle with this recipe.  Put the bacon RIGHT in the biscuits or some of the grease at least in replacements of a couple pats of the butter...lol...  I think if he could mainline bacon grease he would.  Still not sure how he keeps his 160 lb figure...  Hmmm...  At any rate...I'm sure you can find a place in your heart for this recipe, even if you never liked bacon before.  Give it a try...I promise you won't regret it.  Yummmm!

18 October, 2011

Hello Autumn!! I've Missed You....

My favorite season has finally made its presence known...Autumn!  I only take breath every other season of the year to make it to THIS point.  When I get to watch Mother Nature really show off her splendor and be at her finest.  This weather hits and something inside of me wakes up; I find myself living in my kitchen, singing while I stack up pot after pot and pan after pan and I churn out soups, stews, breads, cakes, cookies and candies until my Mister, neighbors and friends are BEGGING me to stop sending food to their house cause they've all gained 10 lbs.  (You know I love you though!!)

On one such day this week I woke up, looked out the window and KNEW it was a Stew 'n' Biscuits day!  There are SO many ways to have a stew but what really characterizes a stew from anything else is the slow cooking and the thickness of the sauce.  Some people would say "Well, but there HAVE to be potatoes!"  Not so.  When I make my stew with lamb I use parsnips in place of potatoes and shallot instead of regular white onion...there is also red wine in the mix.  My point is...you can make a stew out of ANY craving.  You can make an Italian themed stew with gnocchi instead of potatoes, Italian flavored sausage cut up into coins, baby carrots, pearl onions, and the appropriate Italian seasoning in the gravy.  These kinds of variations are easy to work, just use your creativity and most importantly make sure you are making something you WANT to eat.  Let's get started...

*By the time my stew was ready for the crock pot it was such an enormous batch that it came within 1 inch of hitting the rim on my 5.5 quart crock pot.  Before it graduated it to the crock pot I was doing my busy work in a very large pot on the stove.  Make sure you have something large enough to put this size stew into.  If you can't...scale down the recipe to half and see if that works better for you.

2 32oz cartons of unsalted beef broth
5-6 medium sized baby red potatoes (these can get quite large for "baby" reds)
1.5-2 lbs stew beef   *see note below
1/2 a bag of baby carrots
1 1/2 c. frozen peas
2 T. minced garlic
1/4 c. dehydrated chopped onion OR 1/2 c. diced fresh onion
1 6 oz. can of tomato paste (unseasoned and unsweetened)
1/2 c. all purpose flour
2-3 T. canola oil

Begin your preparation by chopping whatever vegetables you have to prepare.  I use the baby carrots as is out of the bag and I try to make my potatoes 2 inch chunks or smaller.  The onion can be diced or stripped like you'd have in fajitas.  I don't like onion strips in my stew so I dice them.

In a large pot begin browning your beef in the canola oil with the minced garlic.  When the meat is about half browned add the onion.  Allow this to cook until the onions are becoming translucent, add in your flour all at once; mixing thoroughly.  Make absolutely sure that the flour has been well incorporated into the juices and meat grease in the pan, you shouldn't see white anymore.  The flour should be the color of the meat juices and oil; completely coating the meat, onion and garlic.  Allow this to "roominate" for at least 1 minute, then slowly add the first 32 oz. of beef broth.  In 1/4 c. bursts at first, stirring after each addition.  You will start to see what looks more like gravy at this stage.  In a 16 oz glass measuring cup mix together the 6 oz of tomato paste and 1 more cup of your beef broth; a quarter of a cup at a time making sure the tomato paste is smooth before adding the next quarter cup.  When the glass cup is filled add it to the pot, stirring while adding.  Once well incorporated add another 2 c. of beef broth.  At this point, keep the remaining 1 cup of beef broth to the side somewhere.  (The thickness or thinness of your stew depends entirely upon you; some like it so thick the when you turn your spoon over it sticks to it like cement.  Some like it so runny it would really be classified as a soup.) Pour the contents of your pot into your large crock pot now if you had planned on it.  Once you do, add your carrots and potatoes.  Allow this to cook in your crock pot on low or medium for 2-4 hours.  If for ANY reason your stew doesn't seem thick enough to you at this point, add some cornstarch mixed with water; following the directions on the box/container.  Repeat until it is as thick as you like.  If it seems TOO thick for your liking, add some of the remaining 1 c. of beef broth until it is a consistency that satisfies you.  5 minutes before serving, add your frozen peas to the pot.  

*I would recommend at LEAST a half or three quarters of a pound of stew beef for this recipe.  Some will want MORE beef than 1 lb, some will want less.  I use less and add MORE vegetables depending on what I have on hand.  I had 2 parsnips so I went with a half pound of meat and extra veggies.  It really has to do with the crowd you're serving.  This can be for meat lovers or the meat can be left out COMPLETELY and vegetable broth can be used in place of beef broth for vegetarians.  The sky is the limit!!

I always have some kind of bread on hand when I serve stew.  If I ask my Mister, he usually requests biscuits.  But I've served it with yeast dinner rolls as well.  It is fabulous both ways...do what you like.  I made drop biscuits to go with this.

3 c. all purpose flour
1 T. aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. sea salt
8 T. Earth's Balance vegan buttery spread, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
4 T. vegetable shortening, cut into 1/2 in. pieces
1 1/4 c. soured unsweetened soy milk   *see how to make below

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and make sure your rack is in the middle of the oven.

Grease your pan of choice, I use cookie sheets when i make biscuits but you can use a cake pan.  They all work.

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Cut butter and shortening into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or a fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Stir in buttermilk until just combined.  Using a large rounded, spring loaded ice cream scoop (I use my Pampered Chef large scoop) or a large spoon portion out the dough into either 6 very large biscuits, 12 large biscuits or 18 medium sized biscuits.  I went with medium sized.  Whatever you do, don't handle the dough a great deal.  If you absolutely want to roll it out on flour and cut out perfect rounded biscuits you can.  Just remember, every time you do that the dough gets tougher and the biscuits will be more dense rather than light and fluffy.  Bake your biscuits for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown.  Let them cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before serving unless you like your biscuits piping hot.

*Making "buttermilk" out of any milk is doable.  Depending on what you have and what you are making will depend on which method you use.  My son and I can't have dairy, so I always sour my unsweetened soy milk.  For savory dishes and cakes I use white vinegar to do this.  If I am making the buttermilk for a cookie, I sour my milk with lemon juice.  Either way, to make it get a 16 oz. glass measuring cup and put in 1 T. of either lemon juice or white vinegar.  Fill the measuring cup to the line you need...in THIS recipe it would be to the 1 and 1/4 cup line.  Stir the mixture as the vinegar sours the milk and VOILA!  You have "buttermilk".

16 October, 2011

Worth Repeating....

It was nearing dinnertime Friday night and it was raining, and though I have long been craving some Soul food since I got to town, nearly all the places that make any worth talking about are SO far from my home.  When I decided to look into a different genre closer to home I recalled a place that had been recommended to me by a handful of people since I started making my flogging known, Sukhothai.

Located in the Bells Corners section of Ottawa, Sukhothai is tucked away in a small shopping area; it certainly isn't conspicuous.  If you aren't paying attention, you could drive right by it.  Luckily, we don't live too far from this area of town, so I have had plenty of opportunities to eye this place up while I've been out running errands.  As per usual with my Mister and the Sprout in tow we hedged our bets and showed up shortly before the dinner hour, 4:45pm.  This was a mistake because they don't open until 5pm.  If it hadn't been raining, this wouldn't have annoyed me at all.  But it was pouring when we showed up.  What do you do with a toddler in a situation like this??  My Mister knew...they went to McDonald's Playland next door to wait there and find something to occupy him.

When the doors were finally opened, at exactly 5pm, we were shown to a loverly half chair, half booth table and given a high chair right away.  As I listened to our waitress tell me what their best dishes were, I scanned through the menu.  She left me to decide on my entree while she went to ask if I could be allowed to shoot pictures inside.  It really took me quite a while to decide between a curry or something else.  I am a TOTAL sucker for ANYthing with coconut milk in it, but I saw something that caught my eye and I kept going back to it over and over comparing whether that sounded better than everything else.  It did...we sent in an order for Pho-Pia Goong (Shrimp Spring Rolls w/ Plum Sauce), Tod Mun Pla (Deep Fried Fish Cakes w/ Cucumber Peanut Sauce) and for my entree, Gai Pad Med Ma Muang (Cashew Chicken).  I was so excited, being that I was having trouble sitting still I decided it was time to explore.

It isn't a very large place, but they make the most of their space.  Plenty of beautiful art on the wall, live plants and seating of every variety; even parties of 6 can get their own table.  Everything inside is just so.  Just enough soft lighting, but not too dark; I particularly noticed because I was sitting against the wall of the kitchen that it was neither too hot nor too cold inside.  I am never able to enjoy my food when I am sweating buckets...  Even so, sitting there we didn't catch much "kitchen noise".  I was quite content on the atmosphere front.  Not more than 10 minutes went by and our appetizers were on the table.
Pho-Pia Goong

                                                                      Tod Mun Pla

I'll start with the Pho-Pia Goong by saying that they had no flavor themselves other than shrimp and wrap.  I read the description a couple times before I ordered them, so I knew I was getting shrimp spring rolls, but I never thought it would be the ONLY thing in them.  The plum sauce of course helped, but it didn't change that for me 5 bucks for 2 pieces of shrimp in wraps just didn't seem like a good value.  My Mister and I found ourselves wishing we had gone for the vegetable rolls instead.  Our Tod Mun Pla was largely consumed by the Sprout, so I only had 2 bites...one bite without anything added to them and one bite with the accompanying cucumber peanut sauce.  They were delightful either way.  The evidence doesn't lie, our son scarfed the fish cakes down so fast we were starting to wonder what else we'd feed him when he was done.  Lucky for us, he LOVES spice and diverse flavor so we were in the right place.  I found the cucumber peanut sauce to be a pleasant compliment to the cakes and really highlighted the fish meat well.  It came off light rather than how most fried fish ends up becoming heavy and drenched.  I was ready for my entree to bring it home...

Gai Pad Med Ma Muang

Fragrant Rice

I wasn't prepared for the fact that we were going to have to order and pay for our rice separately from our entrees.  I've NEVER been to a place that does that.  It is always a part of the meal.  You can choose from sticky rice and fragrant rice, both are the same price.  I chose fragrant rice, more commonly known as Jasmine Rice.  Jasmine rice is the typically served rice in Thai culture, I'm not really sure why there was a choice other than jasmine.  It isn't a huge deal, just odd.  

My Gai Pad Med Ma Muang was simply marvelous!  The last time I had something that was a cashew chicken it was WAY too sweet AND too spicy.  I LOVE spice, but when it masks the natural flavors of ALL the elements in your dish there is too much.  The sauce was more on the brothy side than sticky/thick/heavy side.  I was grateful for that after having a fried spring roll earlier in the meal.  It was quite easy to detect how fresh the vegetables were by texture and flavor.  It was spiced JUST right, even the Sprout loved it.  

To sum up our night I WILL say that I feel like their portions could be slightly larger than what they offer for the money and the Pho-Pia Goong needs a revamp....take the tail off, throw nice thick raw slices of shrimp into the wrap with some veggies & seasoning and fry it up.  But just those two things certainly won't stop me from going back.  My Mister and I both agree that Sukhothai is worth a repeat visit to try more things.  There were more pluses than minuses for the night and I have no reservations about recommending Sukhothai to even the most avid Thai foodie.  Remember that they open promptly at 5pm for the dinner hour, plan accordingly and of course...enjoy your meal!! 

Sukhothai on Urbanspoon

12 October, 2011

Your Suggestions & Requests Are Needed!!

As the holiday seasons approach us keep your eyes peeled for my "12 Days of Christmas Cookies" series.  I will be posting a new recipe for a cookie with pictures EVERY day.  I'll be starting that on December 1st.  It will of course run 12 days with the last recipe posting on December 12th, allowing all of YOU to have 12 days to make these before Christmas Eve hits.  Depending on demand and response I will add an extra "bonus" flogged recipe for a candy, a pan of bars or sweet breads on the same day I post a cookie recipe.  

I of COURSE will be keeping up with going to my list of "to eats" leading up to this and interspersing all of that with intermittent home cooking as always.  As I assert in my tag line for my flog, "I eat, I cook, I blab and you reap all the benefits", so I'm glad to finally be sharing MORE things I make in my own home along with what I experience when my family and I venture out into the city.  At any rate, I sincerely hope that you enjoy the series and maybe even find some NEW favorites your family will turn into a tradition like my family did when I was growing up!!

Here are some photos of what I made LAST year....

Peanut Butter Kisses

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

Crackle Top Molasses

Mini Snowballs



 Jubilee Jumbles

There are several cookies, bars, candies and sweet breads I make that aren't shown here, so don't be afraid to let me know what you'd like to see.  I am taking suggestions and requests now, so don't be shy.  Send them to me via email at mrsstockham@gmail.com.  Please don't leave them in the comments section of my flog.  If I decide to try your suggestion or go with your request, I'll mention you in the post.  

Thank you in advance for participating and enjoy the ride!!

07 October, 2011

Dairy Free, Organically Sweetened German Chocolate Cake

That's a LONG title, but this cake is definitely worth the fuss!!  If I thought it wouldn't have looked COMPLETELY stupid I would have added with Coconut Pecan Filling & Chocolate Frosting to the title, but that's a bit much...

*This is a recipe for an intermediate baker, but I believe that there's NO better time to start to try harder things than the present.  Read through the ingredient list before you begin and make sure you have all the ingredients on hand.  Things move pretty quickly once this gets started and you don't want to have to run to the store for eggs or some other such inconvenience.

Preheat oven to 350 F and make sure your racks are in the center of the height of the oven.  But if you know of hot spots or other such issues your oven has...then, by all means, plan accordingly.

Grease and flour two 10 in. round cake pans or three 8 in. round cake pans.  Set aside.  (You can use parchment paper for this instead if you wish.)

Put 1 T. of white vinegar into a glass measure then fill to 1 c. mark with unsweetened soy milk.  Let this sit for at least 5 minutes before using.  Stir occasionally until you're ready to use it.

1/2 c. Enjoy Life's semi sweet mini chocolate chips
2 1/4 c. King Arthur's Queen Guinevere Cake Flour
3/4 c. Bensdorp Dutch Process Cocoa
1 1/2 tsp. aluminum free baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 c. boiling water
1 c. sour unsweetened soy milk
1 1/4 c. Earth's Balance vegan buttery sticks
2 1/4 c. organic, fair trade cane sugar
5 large organic, free range brown eggs
1 1/2 tsp. King Arthur's pure vanilla extract

Coconut Pecan Filling
1 1/2 c. chopped pecans
1 c. organic, fair trade cane sugar
1 c. unsweetened soy milk
3 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
1/2 c. Earth's Balance vegan buttery sticks, cut into pieces
1 1/2 c. Now's unsweetened organic coconut

Chocolate Frosting
8 oz. Baker's unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 c. Bensdorp Dutch Process Cocoa
3/4 c. unsweetened soy milk
1/2 c. Earth's Balance vegan buttery sticks
3 c. organic, fair trade powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. King Arthur's pure vanilla extract

The frosting has to set up in the fridge then brought back to just under room temperature before it will be easy to work with, so we'll work the frosting first.

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water (if you have a double boiler system, use that), put the chopped chocolate, cocoa powder, milk, and butter.  Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Remove from heat and beat in, with a hand mixer or wire whisk, the confectioners sugar and vanilla extract.  If the frosting is lumpy, strain through a strainer to remove any lumps.  ( I didn't have to strain because I kept it "low and slow" on the stove.  Lumps really only happen if you overheat the chocolate)  Cover and place the frosting in the refrigerator until it is firm (this may take an hour or so, the cake will be done and cooled either way).  Once the frosting is firm remove from refrigerator and place in your mixing bowl.  Beat the frosting for a minute or two or until it is nice and smooth and of spreading consistency.  Set aside.

You'll need 2 or 3 bowls for the cake process...make sure you have 3 clean and available.

In a heatproof bowl, placed over a saucepan of simmering water, melt the chocolate (if you have a double boiler system, use it). Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.  In a separate bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and sea salt. Set aside.  In a small bowl, combine the boiling water and sour soy milk.

In the bowl of your electric mixer, or with a hand mixer, beat the butter until smooth and creamy. Add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is fluffy (this will take about 3-5 minutes). Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla extract and beat to combine.  Add the boiling water/sour soymilk mixture and flour mixtures in three additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat only until the ingredients are incorporated. Fold in the melted chocolate, do NOT use the hand mixer or stir it with a mixing spoon.

Divide the batter evenly among the two or three prepared pans and smooth the tops. Bake for about 30 - 35 minutes or until "toothpick clean" (toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean) and the tops spring back when lightly pressed. Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes. Butter or lightly spray a wire rack with a non stick vegetable spray before inverting the cakes onto the rack to prevent the cakes from sticking. Cool the cakes completely before frosting.

For the coconut pecan filling coarsely chop pecan halves on a cutting board.  I always use my Pampered Chef food chopper for things like this.  It is quick and effective.  Then, in a medium saucepan combine the sugar, unsweetened soy milk, egg yolks and butter.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly; allow it to boil while stirring for 2-3 minutes or until you start to notice it thickening and coating the spoon a bit.  Remove from heat. Stir in the chopped pecans, coconut, and vanilla extract. Let cool until spreadable.

To assemble the cake, first pick one of the cakes that looks like it has the least amount of dome to it.  Then with a cake leveler or a very LONG knife make the top of the cake as flat/level as you can.  This will be your bottom layer.  Spread 1/2 of the cooled coconut pecan filling over the top of this layer, but NOT all the way to the edge.  Leave 1/4 in. between the edge of the cake and the filling.  Then pipe a double layered ring (one on TOP of another) of your chocolate frosting around the very edge of the cake.  If your other cake isn't completely level, now is the time to level it out.  When you're ready, carefully place the second layer on top.  Repeat the steps to add the coconut pecan filling to the top of that layer.  Pipe more chocolate frosting into any spaces you still see between the layers.  Frost the edges of the cake with the chocolate frosting using an angled spatula if you have one.  If you don't...a butter knife will do just as well.  Frost the side of the cake starting from the bottom and working your way up.  Once you properly cover the sides you can leave it as is or pipe a decorative ring around the top...stars, waves, dots...lol...this is the fun part, so have fun.  When I put the pecan halves on top I dabbed a bit of chocolate frosting under them to help them stay in place.

I let my cakes "roominate" a bit before I cut into them.  In this case, I allowed it to sit for 4 hours before I cut into it.  This allows the middle filling and the side piping to really adhere to the cakes.

 This cake turned out UNbelievably moist, rich and I absolutely promise you that when you use the same quality ingredients that I used you will NOT be able to tell that this is dairy free and that it is made with vegan butter.  This cake is moderately dense but not as dense as pound cake.  It was also pleasant to note that even though there was an ENORMOUS amount of sweetening that went into this cake, I didn't feel like I needed a gallon of water to wash it down.  

German Chocolate Cake has always been a favorite for me...now that I found a way to work it into being dairy free, I believe my Sprout will be falling in love shortly as well.  This is NO doubt a time consuming venture, but it is WELL worth the fiddle farting around for what's at the end of this rainbow!!  Hope you love it!