Saturday, February 26, 2011

Fried Stuffed Mushrooms

I like mushrooms.  I really do.  But I don’t trust them.  Any time I am about to eat them, I have this fear that they are going to be gross or slimy or something.  I always cringe a little before taking that first bite. I have no idea what any of that is about.  And I can’t think of any other food item that makes me feel that way.  It’s weird, I know.  For those of you who haven’t met me, weird is one of my endearing personality traits.   Enough about me and my weird mushroom thing.  Let’s get down to business and talk about the most delicious fried, stuffed food item that you’ll ever eat!

Here’s what you’ll need to make your own non-slimy, non-gross, totally delicious ‘shrooms:

A whole bunch of white button mushrooms
1 packet of cream cheese, softened
3 or 4 slices of well done bacon (the really good, thick-cut stuff that doesn’t shrink)
Garlic powder
Onion powder
A splash of Worcestershire sauce
2 large eggs
Bread crumbs

Here’s what you’ll need to make the horseradish dip:

Sour cream
Splash of hot sauce

Before you get started on the ‘shrooms, go ahead and make your dip. Use about a cup of mayo, 2 or 3 tablespoons of horseradish, a small spoonful of sour cream and the splash of hot sauce. These measurements are extremely approximate. Extremely approximate means that, as I dumped each into the bowl, I made a mental note of how much it seemed to be. With that said, I would recommend starting with a small amount of horseradish and adding more to taste. It’s got a little zing to it. The hot sauce I used is actually a dip that Michael and I brought back from The Hula Grill in Waikiki. I’ll be reverse engineering it soon (because Michael ate it all) and will post that recipe once I’ve got it figured out.

Now that you’ve got your dip ready, it’s time for some serious shroomage.

Heat the oil in a large sauce pan or deep fryer. The oil needs to be very hot.

Beat the two eggs in a bowl and set them aside. Combine enough flour and bread crumbs to cover the number of mushrooms that you have.

Combine the cream cheese, bacon (well crumbled, of course), garlic powder, onion powder and Worcestershire sauce in a bowl. Blend well with a fork. You can even do this step a day ahead and keep the mixture in a covered bowl overnight in the fridge.

Rinse the mushrooms in cool water and place them on a paper towel to dry. Remove the stems by carefully snapping them off. If you do it correctly, you’ll have a perfect little hole under the mushroom cap where the stuffing goes. If the stems don’t snap off perfectly, use a small knife to carve out the rest. Just be careful not to dig all the way through the mushroom.

Fill the hole in the mushroom with the cream cheese mixture. Dip the filled mushroom caps into the egg and roll them around until they are completely covered. Next, roll them in the mixture of flour and bread crumbs until they are completely covered. Drop the breaded mushrooms into the hot grease and allow them to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. You may need to turn them upside down for another minute before removing them from the grease so that they brown on all side.

Remove the mushrooms to a plate lined with a paper towel. Serve immediately with horseradish dip.

Those of you in the Nashville area can get locally grown mushrooms from Stones River Market.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Ole, Amigos! It's Taco Salad Time!

I’ve never been to Mexico, but it’s definitely my favorite place to eat! This new recipe makes it even easier to create a little south-of-the-border action in my own home. Kudos to my boss, Mike, for sharing the recipe and thanks to Mandy for the taco salad idea.

To say that I love, love, love, LOVE tacos and the other yummy things you can make with taco meat would be a serious understatement. Even so, taco seasoning was not one of the first things I tackled when I began eliminating packaged food and making everything from scratch. I thought about it for sure, but I guess I doubted whether or not the homemade version could ever be as good as the stuff in the little packets. Then Mike brought his lunch to work and it just smelled so good. I had to have the recipe and, when I got it, I couldn’t wait to make it.

Fast forward a couple of days . . . . . I was in the kitchen with all my ingredients lined up on the counter and ready to go. I glanced at the recipe, set it aside and began measuring (sort of) all the goodies and dumping them into a bowl. About halfway through, I thought to myself, “This sure looks like a lot. Maybe I’d better double check the recipe.” When I looked at the recipe again, everything was in teaspoons. I was using tablespoons. It was too late to start over because I had just used the last of the paprika. Besides, it’s not like the extra would go to waste in my house. So, basically, I ended up with three times the amount that I was trying to make. Oops.

Here’s what you’ll need to make my version:

3 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons of chili powder
2 tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of onion flakes
1 tablespoon of cumin
1 tablespoon of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon of garlic powder
1 tablespoon of ground oregano

Here’s what you’ll need to do it the right way:

4 teaspoons of flour
2 teaspoons of chili powder
2 teaspoons of paprika
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 teaspoon of onion flakes
1 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (or to taste)
1 teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 teaspoon of ground oregano

Combine your ingredients well in a small bowl. Use it just like you would the taco seasoning in a packet – brown your meat, drain it, add water then add your seasoning.

¼ cup of my version seasoned two pounds of ground beef. I put the rest in the spice cabinet in a Ziploc bag. Mike used his entire recipe to season 1 ½ pounds of ground turkey. I used a little more than a cup of water. I believe Mike used a little less.

For the taco salad, I layered chopped iceberg lettuce, taco meat, tomatoes, red onion, banana peppers and avocado on a plate. I topped it with my homemade buttermilk avocado ranch dressing.

Here’s what you’ll need for the dressing:

1 avocado
Ranch dressing mix
Juice from 2 lime wedges (or 2 packets of True Lime)

Halve the avocado and scoop the insides into a bowl. Add the mayo but make sure you have a little less mayo than avocado. That way your dressing is more green than white. Mush them together really well. Add buttermilk a little bit at a time, combining well after each addition, until you get the desired consistency. Add your lime and then the ranch mix to taste. Mix well and serve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hail Caesar!

About sixteen years ago, I discovered Caesar salad. It’s been my one true salad love ever since and the hardest part of this long-term salad relationship has been finding a good one. Not all Caesars are created equal, you know. I’ve found a few places here and there that make a decent one. I’ve also been disappointed a lot. The reigning king of Caesar for many, many years has been McAlister’s Deli but this post officially marks the end of that era. McAlister’s will have to settle for second place from here on out because Aunt D has perfected the art of homemade Caesar dressing.

Here’s what you’ll need to start your own love affair:

4 cloves of garlic
4 tbsp of red wine vinegar
1 cup of mayonnaise
2 ounce container of anchovy fillets
2 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp of lemon juice
½ cup of grated asiago
¼ cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Before you freak out about the anchovies, let me just say that they are absolutely necessary. If you’re thinking that it just sounds gross, you’re right. It sounds completely gross and my initial reaction was to leave them out. I decided to be brave, though, and left the anchovies in. It was definitely the right call. I learned that anchovies are what make Caesar dressing taste like Caesar dressing. If you’re still nervous about it, then start with less than the recipe calls for and work your way up. You won’t be sorry.

Puree everything except the oil, salt and vinegar in a blender. Add the oil slowly without stopping the blender. When everything is nice and creamy, add your salt and pepper to taste. Voila! Caesar dressing.

For the grilled chicken version, I use boneless skinless breasts and cut them in half sideways so that they are very thin. Season them with McCormick’s Grill Mates Chicken Seasoning and cook them on the George Foreman grill.

Use Romaine lettuce and tear it into small pieces. Put the lettuce into a large bowl with a lid. Add the dressing then close the lid and shake until the lettuce is completely covered. Put the lettuce on a plate and top with the warm chicken. Grate fresh asiago over the top and add croutons.

The croutons you see here are homemade. I used bread that I made, cut it into cubes and toasted it in the oven. The bread had seasoning baked into it, so it didn’t really need anything else. When I make croutons from plain white bread, I toss the cubes with melted butter and Italian seasoning before toasting. Spread your bread cubes evenly across a cookie sheet and toast at 300 degrees until they are crispy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Are Those Boobs In Your Oven Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

I know it looks bad, but it’s not porn.  I swear.  It’s more like pastry that went slightly awry – but only where appearances are concerned.  This stuff totally rocked the house in the taste department.  To borrow a line from Adrian Monk, here’s what happened . . . . .
I was reading a new food blog I found called Baking My Way Through Germany.  The blogger was writing about how she recently discovered brioche in cooking school.  Of course, that reminded me that I hadn’t had brioche in forever so I decided to make some.  I dug out my recipe and got started.
The dough was in the bread machine doing its thing while I worked on an article and then made some lunch.  Long story short, I got busy and forgot all about it.  Because pastry dough is sweeter than most of its counterparts, it rises really well.  In this instance, it was trying to burst out of the bread machine by the time I remembered to check on it.  I peeled it off the lid of the machine and knocked it back down a bit.
With the dough once again under control, or so I thought, I proceeded according to plan.  I formed six brioches and put them in my muffin pan.  I checked on them about halfway through the regular baking time and that’s when I found the boobs in my oven.  The little buggers had clearly risen way beyond my expectations.  I had to alter the cooking time and temperature, but they turned out pretty well.  I do try to avoid eating food that looks like body parts, but I made an exception this time.  They were totally delish!
If you want to make your own, I recommend paying attention to the dough and making twelve of them instead of six. 
Here’s what you’ll need:
1 cup + 3 tbsp of milk (warm it in the microwave before adding it to the bread machine)
4 ½ tbsp of butter
2 eggs
3 ½ cups of bread flour
3 ½ tbsp of sugar
1 ½ tsp of salt
1 ½ tsp of bread machine yeast

As always, follow your bread machine manufacturer’s instructions for adding the ingredients to your machine.  Set your machine to the dough setting and pay close attention to it.  When the dough is ready, remove it from the bread machine pan onto a lightly floured surface.   Separate it into twelve pieces.  From each piece, tear off a smaller piece for the top.

Roll the large pieces into balls and place them into your muffin pan.  I used a stoneware pan from The Pampered Chef and greased each cup with a small amount of butter.

With your fingertips, make a small indentation in the top of each large ball.  Roll the small pieces into balls and place them into the indentations.

Brush them well with a beaten egg and sprinkle with lots of sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees.

If you insist on recreating my accidental version, here is what I did:

Let the dough rise for at least an extra half hour.  Make six of them instead of twelve.  Bake for 13 minutes at 375 degrees, and then lower the temp to 325 for another 10 minutes.  Turn the oven off but wait another 15 minutes before you remove the pastries.

Serve with butter and your favorite homemade (or store bought) jam.  They are boob-i-licious!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Italian Herb Bread

Have you ever wanted a pair of shoes so badly that you bought an entire outfit just so you would have something to wear them with?  I have.  Sometimes the accessory gets to drive the bus and that’s absolutely the case with this bread. 

The twenty minutes that it spends baking is nothing less than torture.  The Asiago is the secret ingredient and when it bakes, everyone within sniffing distance drools uncontrollably.  Serve it with anything you want because the main dish always takes a back seat to this accessory!

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 cup water plus 2 tbsp
2 tbsp butter
3 cups bread flour
Grated Asiago cheese
1 tbsp sugar
Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp yeast

Before adding the ingredients to your bread machine, measure your flour into a separate bowl.  Add plenty of Italian seasoning and freshly grated Asiago cheese.  Blend the flour, seasonings and cheese thoroughly before putting them into the bread machine.

As always, add the ingredients to your machine in the order specified by the manufacturer then choose the dough setting.  When the dough is ready, remove it from the machine and place it on a pizza pan.  Roll it out just like you would pizza dough.  Brush with a small amount of olive oil and top with more grated Asiago.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top of the bread is golden brown.

Slice it with a bread knife and it's ready to serve!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Potato Soup

This is the perfect solution if you have potatoes that you need to use pretty quickly.  I had about five pounds of russets that were approaching expiration and I’m not a fan of throwing food out.  I can tell you that they were quite happy to become soup instead of trash.

Here’s what you need:

Chicken broth
Sour cream

Peel and dice the potatoes.  Heat the chicken broth and water in a large pot on the stove.  The mixture should be at least half water, more if you want to go easy on the broth.  Add the potatoes to the water/broth mixture and bring them to a boil.  Lower the heat and allow the potatoes to cook until they are soft, stirring occasionally.

When the potatoes are soft, return them to a boil.  Begin sprinkling flour into the pot a little at a time.  After each addition, stir well to ensure that the flour is dissolved before adding more.  Continue adding small amounts of flour until the soup reaches the desired thickness.  Keep in mind that it will continue to thicken after it has finished cooking.

Add fresh garlic (or garlic powder if you don’t have fresh), chives, finely chopped onion and salt to taste.  Finish up with a splash of milk and a big dollop of sour cream. 

Combine everything thoroughly and let the soup cook on the lowest setting for another half hour.

Suggestions: If you don’t have chicken broth, use beef or vegetable.  You can also skip the broth entirely, if you want.  Try serving it with crumbled bacon on top to jazz it up a little.

Serve with a simple salad and some crusty bread for a complete meal.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Tequila Lime Chicken & Salad

Step away from the shot glass.  Your tequila has found a higher calling.  And I've finally found some serious competition for my one true salad love - the Grilled Chicken Caesar.  Like the Caesar, this salad is no sissy.  Served with a homemade cilantro-lime dressing and a couple of warm flour tortillas, this is a meal fit for even the heartiest of appetites.

Here’s what you’ll need for the chicken:

Boneless skinless chicken breasts
Fresh cilantro
Fajita seasoning
Lime juice
Water (for the quick version)

You may have noticed the conspicuous absence of measurements in this recipe.  Sorry about that.  I haven’t completely reverted back to my default setting. It’s just that amounts truly don’t matter for this one.  It’s a salad.  Make a big one.  Or a little one.  Or something in between.  You can decide.

Pour about a cup of tequila into a pan.  Add a handful of finely chopped fresh cilantro, a packet of fajita seasoning and the juice of two limes.  Mix well.  Add your chicken and marinate for several hours.

I recommend grilling the chicken (baste it periodically with the marinade) and serving it, chopped, on top of the salad.  If you are pressed for time, though, you can cook it on the stove.  If you go that route, chop the uncooked chicken breast into bite sized pieces and place them in a skillet along with the marinade and up to a half cup of water.  Cover the skillet and cook on medium until the chicken is done, stirring periodically.

Here’s what you’ll need for the salad:

Spring mix lettuce
Red onion
Sea salt
Shredded cheese
Warm tortillas

Chop the tomato and the onion into chunks.  Halve the avocado and gently remove the insides from the peel.  Place the avocado halves flat side down on a cutting board and slice them lengthwise into several thin pieces.  Finely chop a handful of fresh cilantro.

Cover a plate with a thick layer of the spring mix.  Top with tomato, onion, cilantro and avocado slices.  For the best presentation, scatter them evenly across the salad. Sprinkle with sea salt and add the chicken just prior to serving.  Top with shredded cheese.

To warm the tortillas, place them directly on the middle rack of your oven at 200 degrees for two or three minutes.

Here’s what you need for the cilantro-lime dressing:

Lime juice
Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt
Sunflower oil
Apple cider vinegar
Cilantro, finely chopped
Honey (a very small amount)

Combine the ingredients in a bowl or other container.  Mix well.  Taste the dressing and adjust your ingredients accordingly.  It should be tart and a tad salty, with a hint of sweetness.

Pour the dressing over the salad just after you’ve added the sea salt and the chicken.