Thursday, December 30, 2010

Apple Pastries

The wait is over, Brianne!  I’m finally posting the apple pastry recipe.  But before I tell you how to make them, I have to tell you my apple pastry story.
The first time I made these was just before a business trip.  I thought they would be a nice treat for Michael and Riley while I was gone.  I made plenty to be sure that they would last for the four days that I would be gone.  Halfway through my trip I got a phone call from Riley, “Mom! Michael’s eating all the pastries!”  Michael, who is German and has the most wonderful accent I’ve ever heard, called me about thirty minutes later, “Honey! Riley is eating all zee pastries!”
All I could do was laugh.  I was a thousand miles from home listening to each of them complaining about the other’s excessive pastry consumption.  Needless to say, the pastries did not last four days.  At least there was no bloodshed, right?
Here’s what you’ll need to start your own Family Food Feud:
6 ½ ounces (3/4 cup + 1tbsp) milk
1 large egg
4 tablespoons butter
3 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons yeast (or 1 ½ teaspoons rapid rise yeast)

Apples (any kind)
Brown sugar

This dough recipe came with my bread machine.  It was meant for cinnamon rolls but can be used for any kind of pastry.  Add the ingredients to your bread machine in the order that your machine specifies (either wet first or dry first).  Select the dough cycle and let the machine do it’s thing.

While your dough is . . . . doughing . . . . you want to get started on your apples.  Peel them and chop them into very small pieces.  In a sauce pan, melt your butter.  Don’t ask me how much – I don’t actually measure things unless it’s for the bread machine.  Just use a reasonable amount that seems to make sense with the quantity of apples that you have.  If your apples are small, maybe use a half dozen or so.  That’s the closest thing to a measurement that I can offer you.  Add your chopped apples to the butter.  Then sprinkle in your cinnamon and a generous amount of the brown sugar.  Stir well and let them cook until the dough is ready – on a low setting so that they won’t stick.  They will be really soft and gooey when they’re done.

When the bread machine is finished, put the dough in a large bowl and cover it with a damp kitchen cloth.  Let it rise for another half hour.  Place a large piece of wax paper on your counter.  You are going to roll the dough out into a rectangle, so make sure your wax paper is large enough to be bigger than your dough rectangle.  Once the dough is rolled out, spread your apple mixture evenly leaving an inch or so uncovered on both of the long edges.  Try not to leave a border on the short ends.

When you’re finished, start with one of the long sides and roll the dough tightly.  Wrap the roll tightly in the wax paper and place it in the fridge for at least an hour.  My apple goo always leaks out into the fridge, so you might want an extra layer of wax paper.  When you take the roll from the fridge, remove the wax paper and slice the roll into sections about 1” thick.  Place the pieces into a cake pan or some other pan with a similar depth.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 – 25 minutes or until they are just beginning to brown.

If the hubby and kids are fighting over them, then you know you did it right!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Salad With Grilled Chicken and Pomegranate Vinaigrette Dressing

This salad works best in summer when you have your pick of fresh fruits.  It's still doable in cooler weather, though. I've always been a fan of grilled chicken on a salad - something about the contrast between the cool greens and warm chicken.  The home made pomegranate vinaigrette is the perfect topper.  It's light and healthy with just the right amount of sweetness.  I have to warn you, though, that squeezing your own pomegranate juice is quite the adventure.  A messy one.  If you're not super brave, you might want to go with the store bought kind.

Here's what you need:

Salad greens (I prefer a spring mix, but you can use anything you like.)
Grilled chicken (suggested instructions to follow)
Apples (The best part of making this salad in cooler weather is that Honeycrisp apples are available! They are the best.)
Craisins (Or regular raisins, if you want to be boring about it.)
Sunflower seeds
Chopped walnuts
Lemon juice

Pomegranate juice
Red wine vinegar
Sunflower oil

I marinate boneless, skinless chicken in a 1:1 mixture of orange juice and soy sauce.  Let it sit for 10 - 15 minutes.  I grill the chicken on my George Foreman Grill.  You can also grill outdoors or cook the chicken in a skillet.  I pour a little of the marinade over the chicken before closing the grill just to seal in a little extra flavor.

Chop your apples into bite-sized pieces and put them into a freezer bag with enough lemon juice to coat them but not overpower them.  The juice keeps them from turning brown, but you want your apples to taste like apples and not lemons.

Put your greens on the plate then top with the apples, craisins, walnuts and sunflower seeds.  Add the warm chicken last and top with your homemade dressing.

To make the dressing, combine your pomegranate juice and red wine vinegar.  I'm not big on measuring, but you definitely want more pom than vinegar.  Start small.  You can always add more of any ingredient if you need to.  Add a spoonful or so of honey and some of the oil.  I go easy on the oil with this dressing, using just enough to give it some thickness. The final product should be more juicy than oily.

If you want to go the fresh-squeezed route with your pom juice and have some questions, just let me know.  I'd love to share stories of my own pomegranate adventures.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Big Boy Omelet With Buttered Toast

If this dish makes it into my cookbook, it will be in the chapter called 'Things That Even A Moron Can Make'.  It's just so simple and, like many of my recipes, completely adaptable.  Before I share it with you, though, I have to give credit where credit is due.  This yummy breakfast was inspired by an omelet I had at Big Bad Breakfast in Oxford, MS.  I have no clue what Jason and the crew at BBB put in their omelet but it was so delicious that I was inspired to go home and make my own.  It has become a 'regular' around here.  It's Michael's special Saturday breakfast.

What you'll need:

2 or 3 eggs (depending on how hungry you are)
1/2 tbsp butter
Chopped tomato (not diced - you want big chunks for this one)
A thick slice of onion (diced is best for the onion)
Cheese (I use Swiss and Feta for Michael's omelet)
Meat (I recommend the Ovengold Turkey Breast from Boar's Head)
2 slices of toast

In an 8 inch skillet (I use the Executive Cookware 8" Saute Pan from Pampered Chef -  the perfect size and the best cooking surface EVER), melt the butter on low heat (a higher temp than simmer, but lower than medium).  When the butter is melted, use your spatula to spread it around the bottom of the pan evenly.  In a separate bowl, crack the eggs and beat them well. Pour the eggs into the pan.

As the bottom of the eggs begin to cook, tear one or two slices of Swiss cheese into tiny pieces and drop the pieces onto the top of the egg, spreading them around evenly.  Next, tear the meat into tiny pieces and drop them on top of the cheese.  Add the diced onion in the same manner and let the omelet cook while you toast your bread.  If you are using Feta in addition to Swiss, add the Feta after the onion.  It doesn't act like regular cheese if you let it cook too long.

When the egg is done, it will begin to pull itself away from the side of the pan.  When you see this, add the tomato in a straight line down the middle of the omelet.  After one more minute, use your spatula to fold the omelet in half with the tomato line being in the center of the fold.  The tomato pieces naturally spread across the omelet when you do this and are less likely to spill everywhere when you transfer the omelet to your plate.

The wonderful thing about an omelet is that all you really need is a couple of eggs.  The rest of your ingredients can be random things from your fridge.  Go ahead!  Give it a try and be adventurous with it.

The toast in this post (hey - that rhymes!) is my own Walnut Sunflower Seed Bread.  Look for that recipe in a future post.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Deluxe Grilled Cheese with Chili


For the chili you'll need:

4 cans of undrained beans (I use red, kidney, black and pinto)
1 can of water
1 pound of ground meat (I use turkey)
2 or 3 hot peppers (more if you like it spicy)
Up to 1/4 cup of flour
1 packet of McCormick's chili mix

Brown the meat in a skillet, drain and set aside.  Combine all four cans of beans (undrained) in a large pot.  Add the water and the meat.  Chop the peppers into tiny pieces and add them to the pot.  Add the chili mix, a small amount of cumin and some flour. Stir well and make sure the flour doesn't clump.

Bring the chili to a boil, then reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 to 20 minutes before tasting.  It probably needs more cumin.  If so, then add some.  Continue to simmer the chili for at least 2 or 3 hours.  Taste it periodically and add more cumin and chopped peppers, if necessary.  You can also continue to add flour (a little at a time, stirring well after each addition) until you achieve the desired thickness.

After 2 or 3 hours of slow simmering, the chili is ready.  It's even better if you can leave it in the fridge overnight and serve it the next day. 

For the grilled cheese you'll need:

2 large slices of sourdough bread
Lots of butter
2 or 3 (depending on size) slices of American cheese
2 or 3 (depending on size) slices of Provolone cheese

In a small pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.  Butter one slice of sourdough and, when the melted butter is very hot, place the bread (buttered side down) in the skillet.  Layer the American cheese across the bread, then follow with the Provolone.  Butter the second slice of bread and place it (buttered side up) on top of the cheese.  With a spatula, carefully lift the sandwich to check the doneness on the bottom.  When the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown, remove it from the pan.  Quickly melt 2 more tablespoons of butter in the skillet and return the sandwich, turning it over this time, to the skillet. 

With your spatula, gently press the sandwich down to smash it just a bit.  When the bottom of the sandwich is golden brown, it is finish.  Your cheese should be well melted by now.  Remove the sandwich from the skillet and serve it with a bowl of hot chili.