24 May 2011

quinoa skillet bread

This recipe has proven to me that our floors are not straight in the kitchen. I envision that is slightly bowl-shaped, with a low point in the middle and a slope up towards all the walls. No biggie, of course, but it was funny to cook something and actually notice. 

So I made this lovely quinoa/cornbread fusion thingy that you bake up in a skillet (Another win for making me love my skillet even more!). It's pretty darned great. I was so on board with the concept, I knew I'd like it before I even tried it. I took it over to a gathering with some folks, and it was well-received for sure. I assured the recipe would be passed along to some folks, and it was almost gone before I left. This always makes me feel like I made the right thing, and also removes any bad feelings I have about using my friends as guinea pigs for new recipes. I do this all the time, but I always feel some regret as things bake/cook up. 

I cooked up the quinoa as the ladies do over at Our Best Bites. I made the quinoa the night before, and turned the rest of the quinoa into a cold salad that I ate for dinner (I added cumin, cilantro, thinly sliced yellow bell pepper, a diced shallot, salt, pepper, red wine vinegar, olive oil, and lime juice). I was thrilled to discover that this summer once it is too hot to cook, I'll be able to put together some tasty cold quinoa salads for dinner so we don't have to have smoothies for dinner every night for a month or so (that is not to say we aren't serious smoothie people!). I plan to work on cold soups too. Last year's chilled avocado soup fail really has steered me away from the concept thus far.... I must prevail! It's my fault I was impatient and used unripe avocados. There's no way every cold soup will end up with unripened bits floating on top. Ewwww.

I made the skillet bread as written from 101 Cookbooks. The only switch was for the flour -- I don't think I know any place that stocks whole wheat pastry flour. I know, I could have looked up the gluten content and approximated it from the flours I've got in the pantry, but I decided to go for it and use plain old whole wheat flour, and it turned out just fine! For the sweetener, I used turbinado sugar. For the mixed herbs, I used zata'ar that I brought back from Jordan (=thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds, and probably some other tasty things, as it came from a secret Palestinian family recipe). For the milk, I used whole. 

The cream is key. Turns out it makes a lovely layer of custard that is just incredible. The crust and bread by itself is great, a lovely texture, but if you get some of the custard, it is a perfect savory-bready-creamy treat. This is how I got the 411 on my kitchen floor -- the custard layer really only resided in one half or so of the bread. Not a major problem, really just amusing. 

15 May 2011

tamale pie

Tamale pie is the default for evenings after a day full of too many blahs. My husband and I love to talk about how it isn't anywhere near a pie -- it's really just a delicious chili baked with cornbread on top. And that's just a winning combination every single time.

Last week was full of crappy weather, a rejection from a potential job, more waiting on another potential job (as I like to call them, 'big-girl jobs'), and a moment in which I stared down an application to work at a pet food store and deeply considered applying to work nights and weekends because we're so damn poor. Then I realized I'd never see my little family, or enjoy a run (always free!), or have time to cook dinner. Basically, it would remove my sanity for a few more bucks and discounted pet food. I actually feel like I deserve a real job (finally!), and now I can't find one. Blahs. If I don't find a new big-girl science job in five years, I swear I'm just going to suck it up and open a coffee shop/bakery/veggie-friendly restaurant/wine bar. Dogs will be permitted on the patio, I can guarantee you this.

So yeah, there were blahs that needed to be removed. We made tamale pie. I remembered to put a pan under it to catch the inevitable overflow of chili-tomato-y goodness. I also remembered to put lebni on it. We weren't out of crushed tomatoes. We tried out a lovely new gewurztraminer. I sewed an iPad case on the fly. The dog let me touch her paws with the help of a handful of Charlee Bears (the cranberry ones).  We all snuggled. Breathe in, breathe out. Things aren't so bad. I have a job. Life will get better. I just need to believe that I'm not lying to myself when I say that.

Right. Tamale Pie. Have a look-see:

Tamale Pie
Makes 6 serious servings

For the stew:
1 T. veggie oil
1 med onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped (green or red, both work well)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. chili powder
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. smoked paprika
several dashes of chipotle Tabasco
1 4 oz. can of diced green chilis
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes, unsalted
1 1/2 c. diced extra firm tofu
1 1/2 c. cooked beans, kidney, black, or pinto
1 c. corn, frozen
salt and pepper, to taste
fresh cilantro, if you've got it

For the topping:
1/2 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 eggs
2/3 c. milk
3 T. butter

1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Put a rack in the middle and another below. Be sure to put a rimmed baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch anything that spills over.
1. Heat the oil over med-hi heat in a 2 qt. saucepan. Add the onions, bell peppers, and garlic; cook and stir until softened. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, and paprika for 30 seconds.
2. Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Stir in the tofu, kidney beans, corn, and green chilis. Add the Tabasco and cilantro.
3. Spoon into a greased baking pan, 9"x9" or 8"x10".
4. In a medium bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt.
5. In another bowl, beat the eggs. Add the milk and melted butter until combined.
6. Stir the liquid ingredients into the dry until the dry ingredients are moistened. Spread over the stew.
7. Bake 30-35 minutes or until the top is nicely golden brown.
8. Let it sit 10-15 minutes (it will be bubbling!), then serve with shredded cheese and sour cream/plain yogurt.

08 May 2011

iced coffee

The full title of this post is actually "super-tasty iced coffee (that does not suck)". You know, iced coffee from a cafe is so very disappointing -- hot coffee cooled/watered down with ice is a rip-off. As it turns out, steeping coffee cold (kind of like making sun tea) makes the coffee's flavor super smooth. Delightful.

This recipe (oh come on, this totally does not count! Brewing procedure maybe?) is fun in that it flavors the coffee. And of course, everyone likes their coffee a bit differently, so definitely tweak this as necessary. I only used two tablespoons of brown sugar (oh my gosh, brilliant in coffee! I'm never using white sugar ever again.), and I may pare that down more next time. Also I'm going to swap cardamom for cinnamon, and reduce it to 1/2 teaspoon for my next batch. Cardamom is what makes Jordanian coffee so special and delicious, trust me, it is the best. Also, if you want the taste of the iced coffee but warmed up (I respect that. I like that I drink hot coffee much more slowly than the iced variety. It's so sad that it's over so quickly!), go for a one-to-one ratio of brewed iced coffee to water and heat it up in the microwave.

And if you're in the market for a hot coffee maker, I have to plug the Chemex -- not only is it pretty and nerdy on a subtle level, it makes the best drip coffee you'll ever have! Seriously, every morning I pretty much high-five myself because I'm getting delicious coffee, and it didn't cost me $2.


(Also, happy Mom's day everyone!)

07 May 2011

chocolate-filled pretzel bites

I am almost afraid to say it out loud, but I do think that springtime is here to stay in Minnesota. When my cat starts to drop his winter coat, I say it is a done deal. Today we had the windows open, and I wasn't even burning anything in the kitchen! I wore shorts, a tank top, and flip flops today. I felt sweaty after my run. Being outside felt so great, even when the clouds rolled in. That first warm day that you know is not just a tease makes me feel much more relaxed. I associate that feeling with turning in a last final of a spring semester. It makes me feel a little odd that I have that same sense of relief, and I'm not even a student any more. Hmm.

But, it is not summer yet. I know this because I still like eating chocolate. Usually when summer rolls in, I am off chocolate until September. It's not that I no longer like it, it's just that fruit-filled desserts start to look way more appealing. 

Hence, chocolate-filled pretzel bites! I may tweak this recipe more at some point, as I have a few fundamental problems with it (uhh, a baking time could be kind of helpful in a recipe?). But, do not despair -- the result was still tasty. My comments are embedded in the recipe below, plus some adaptations and additional steps.

Chocolate-filled pretzel bites
(makes about 85 bites)
  • For the pretzel dough:
  • 1 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 3/4 cups flour (plus lots more for dusting)

  • For the filling:
  • 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup)
  • 6 oz. baker's chocolate
  • 2 t. brown sugar
  • pinch cinnamon
  • pinch cayenne

  • For the poaching liquid:
  • 10 cups water
  • 2/3 cup baking soda

  • For the finishing touches:
  • Egg wash, as needed
  • 1/4 cup salt

  • Directions!
  • 1. Make the dough. Combine warm water (100 to 110 F), yeast, sugar, and salt; mix well and allow to sit until foamy (about 5 minutes). Pour yeast mixture into a large mixing bowl and add flour, a bit at a time, to form a dough. (Note: I needed way, waaay more flour to make this anything that could even be considered a dough.) Once the dough does not stick to the sides of the bowl, turn out onto a floured work surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, adding flour as needed to prevent the dough from sticking. Form the dough into a ball, place in an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size--about an hour.
  • 2. Prepare your filling. In a medium saucepan, combine chocolate chips and butter on low heat, stirring frequently, until the mixture is smooth and glossy. This can also be done by heating the mixture in the microwave in 20 second intervals until melted. Put your chocolate mixture off to the side for the moment. (Let this sit a little while, it is better to use once it has firmed up a bit. If it gets too solid, just zap it fo 5-10 seconds.)

  • 3. Heat oven to 450°F. divide the dough into quarters and roll, one quarter at a time, into a 1/4-inch sheet. Cut the dough sheet into squares, about an inch and a half each. Place 1/8 teaspoon of the chocolate mixture in the center of each of the dough squares; bring the corners to the center and pinch together to seal. They'll look like little pillows at this point.

  • 4. Heat the water and baking soda in a deep sauté pan. Poach the pretzel nuggets for about 30 seconds, remove with a slotted spoon. (We found a dozen at a time works best)

  • 5. Remove the nuggets from the poaching liquid and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. 

  • (here's the instructions that were not included...I think my PA Dutch roots were able to just take over and finish up the recipe. Pretzel making is in my bones.)

  • 6. Brush bites with egg wash and sprinkle with kosher salt.

  • 7. Bake 15 minutes, until bites are as golden as you'd like them.