Sunday, July 31, 2011

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches

Oh, how I love a pulled pork sandwich! I don't know what it is about shredded pork slathered in barbecue sauce nestled in a chewy roll, but I fall for it every time. My husband can attest to the fact that I am not a big fan of hunks of meat especially on a sandwich, so I think that the fact that these are thinly shredded pieces that are perfectly bite-sized adds to the allure.

Before this meal I had never attempted to make these at home. They were saved for the few times we ventured out to a great barbecue restaurant where I would ponder over and worry about whether their idea of a pulled pork sandwich was the same as mine. Some were and some weren't. Well now I don't have to have all that anxiety added to my life. I can make them at home as often as I want and know that I am getting exactly what I want!

These are so easy to make. Put the meat and sauce in the crockpot and go about the rest of your day. Pull it out about dinner time to shred and re-coat with barbecue sauce and you are set. Just thinking about it while
typing this up is making me hungry for one. Enjoy!

Slow Cooker BBQ Pork Sandwiches
Source: Adapted from Kraft 

2 pound boneless pork shoulder
3 onions, sliced, separated into rings
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
8 kaiser rolls, split
thinly sliced cheddar cheese, optional
Place meat in slow cooker; top with onions and barbecue sauce. Cover with lid. Cook on LOW 8 to 10 hours (or on HIGH 4 to 5 hours).
Remove meat from slow cooker; cut off and discard excess fat. Chop meat into small pieces or shred with fork. Return to slow cooker; stir until evenly coated with sauce.
Fill rolls with meat mixture just before serving. If desired, add a thin slice of cheese before covering meat with top bun. 

Makes 8 servings

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Daring Bakers - Fancy Fraisiers

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakes was our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.
Fresh strawberries, light airy chiffon cake, fluffy pastry cream . . . who could resist this month's Daring Bakers challenge!  When I saw the challenge at the beginning of the month I knew that this would work perfectly for my two 5-inch springform pans. These would yield two small desserts, one for book group and one for my family. Little did I know that one 5-inch springform pan would yield more than enough for both groups combined. Oops, the hazards of trying to make something smaller.
I followed the recipe exactly and it was very straight forward. I baked the cakes the day before I needed the dessert and had them cooling on wire racks while I whipped up the pastry cream. I knew from past experience that this could sit in the fridge overnight along with the simple syrup. Making these ahead of time made for a bit less work on preparation day but there were still a lot of steps to do to get the whole thing together.
I'll spare you all the photos of making the cake, pastry cream, and simple syrup and just show you a quick assembly of the cake. For one of the cakes I did use the almond paste but for the other cake I did not. I liked the taste and look of the one without the almond paste a little better. I didn't think the almond paste added anything extraordinary and was really not a necessary item. The steps look involved but it really is a straight forward, simple recipe. Enjoy!

Chiffon Cake
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large egg yolks
1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon water
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon lemon zest, grated
5 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
Preheat the oven to moderate 325°F. Line the bottom of an 8-inch spring-form pan with parchment paper. Do not grease the sides of the pan.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour and baking powder. Add in all but 3 tablespoons of sugar, and all of the salt. Stir to combine.
In a small bowl combine the oil, egg yolks, water, vanilla and lemon zest. Whisk thoroughly. Combine with the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly for about one minute, or until very smooth.
Put the egg whites into a stand mixer, and beat on medium speed using a whisk attachment, until frothy. Add cream of tartar and beat on a medium speed until the whites hold soft peaks. Slowly add the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar and beat on a medium-high speed until the whites hold firm and form shiny peaks.
Using a grease free rubber spatula, scoop about ⅓ of the whites into the yolk mixture and fold in gently. Gently fold in the remaining whites just until combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 45 to 55 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the pan on a wire rack. To unmold, run a knife around the sides to loosen the cake from the pan and remove the spring form sides. Invert the cake and peel off the parchment paper. Refrigerate for up to four days.

Pastry Cream
1 cup whole milk
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt, preferably kosher
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 teaspoon gelatin
1/2 tablespoon water
1 cup heavy cream
Pour the milk, vanilla, and salt into a heavy sauce pan. Place over medium-high heat and scald, bringing it to a near boiling point. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, in a stand mixer add the cornstarch and sugar. Whisk to combine. Add the eggs to the sugar and cornstarch and whisk until smooth.
When the milk is ready, gently and slowly while the stand mixer is whisking, pour the heated milk down the side of the bowl into the egg mixture. Pour the mixture back into the warm pot and continue to cook over a medium heat until the custard is thick, just about to boil and coats the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl. Allow to cool for ten minutes stirring occasionally.
Cut the butter into four pieces and whisk into the pastry cream a piece at a time until smooth.
Cover the cream with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic wrap onto the top of the cream to prevent a skin from forming. Chill in the refrigerator until cool throughout. (Can be refrigerated for up to five days.)
In a small dish, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand for a few minutes to soften. 
Put two inches of water into a small sauce pan and bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Measure 1/4 cup of the chilled pastry cream into a small stainless steel/glass bowl that will sit across the sauce pan with the simmering water, without touching the water.
Heat the cream until it is 120 F. Add the gelatin and whisk until smooth. Remove from the water bath, and whisk the remaining cold pastry cream in to incorporate in two batches.
In a stand mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the cream until it holds medium-stiff peaks. Immediately fold the whipped cream into the pastry cream with a rubber spatula.
Vanilla Simple Syrup
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup water
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
Combine the water, sugar, and vanilla in a medium saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil and let the sugar dissolve. Stirring is not necessary, but will not harm the syrup. Remove the syrup from the heat and cool slightly. Transfer syrup to a lidded container or jar that can be stored in the refrigerator. Simple syrup can be stored for up to one month.
Fraisier Assembly
1 baked 8-inch chiffon cake
1 recipe pastry cream filling
1/3 cup simple syrup
2 lbs strawberries
confectioners’ sugar for dusting
1/2 cup almond paste, optional 
Line the sides of an 8-inch spring-form pan with plastic wrap. Do not line the bottom of the pan.
Cut the cake in half horizontally to form two layers. Fit the bottom layer into the prepared spring-form pan. Moisten the layer evenly with the simple syrup. When the cake has absorbed enough syrup to resemble a squishy sponge, you have enough.
Hull and slice in half enough strawberries to arrange around the sides of the cake pan. Place the cut side of the strawberry against the sides of the pan, point side up forming a ring.
Pipe cream in-between strawberries and a thin layer across the top of the cake.
Hull and quarter your remaining strawberries and place them in the middle of the cake. Cover the strawberries and entirely with the all but 1 tablespoon of the pastry cream.
Place the second cake layer on top and moisten with the simple syrup. 
Lightly dust a work surface with confectioners' sugar and roll out the almond paste to an 8-inch round 1/16 inch thick. Spread the remaining 1 tablespoon of pastry cream on the top of the cake and cover with the round of almond paste.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. 
To serve release the sides of the spring form pan and peel away the plastic wrap Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Grain-Mustard Pork Chops

I am not a big fan of pork chops. In fact, both my mom and my husband were surprised to hear that pork chops were on the menu at my house. I don't know if it was a bad experience with a dry, shake and bake pork chop or what, but I have steered clear of them for years. Don't get me wrong, I will eat pork. Every now and then we have ham, pork bacon (although now it is usually turkey bacon), and pork loin, but I can probably count it on two hands how often we eat pork throughout the year.

I believe these pork chops may have changed all that. I came across this recipe in a book that I was reading and thought it sounded easy and fairly tasty. I was still a little nervous when I pulled the pork chops out of their package to marinade, just the thought of it being pork chop made me rethink my dinner plans. I held steady though, finished mixing the rub, and got the pork chops marinading in the fridge for the day.

The grilled pork chops looked beautiful. The leftover rub smelled delicious. We were so hungry that we dished up and dug in. Even me. I was about halfway through my pork chop when I realized that I had not taken a picture. Thank goodness there was a piece left from the kids' pork chop. The slices in the photo were the only part left of mine.

This was definitely a tasty dish! I enjoyed the flavor and moistness of the pork chop, and it was definitely enhanced by dipping it in the leftover rub. Enjoy!

Grain-Mustard Pork Chops

1/2 cup grain Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons herb garden seasoning
1 teaspoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley leaves
1 pound thick cut boneless pork loin chops

In a small bowl, combine the mustard, herb garden seasoning, garlic, honey, and chopped parsley. Reserve 1/4 cup of the rub for serving.

Transfer mustard mixture to a resealable plastic bag. Add the pork chops and thoroughly coat with the mustard mixture.Let the pork chops sit for at least 5 minutes or as long as overnight, in the refrigerator, before grilling.

Heat grill to medium heat. Grill the chops for 6 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a serving platter and serve sprinkled with the reserved rub.

Makes 4 servings

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Cinnamon Raisin Nut Bread

Cinnamon Raisin Nut Bread courtesy of another baking kick! I managed to go over a month without baking up a sweet bread of any kind so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the day that I get into a baking mood I end up making a few different varieties of sweet breads (the others will be coming at a later date).

Glancing over my top 100 list gave me several ideas of things I could make during this baking marathon. I thought about baking monkey bread but decided to go an easier route with cinnamon swirl bread. After choosing two different cinnamon swirl bread recipes I decided to add raisins and nuts to this loaf to make it into Cinnamon Raisin Nut Bread.

It was really pretty easy to make. There is a bit of patience involved with the rising time of any yeast bread but since I was pretty much just hanging around the house all day it worked out fine. I was somewhat surprised that this recipe didn't use any eggs.  I was glad it didn't because my other recipe required two eggs which is the exact number I had in the fridge. One pleasant surprise was the sweet smell of cinnamon when I started kneading it. This cinnamon bread recipe adds cinnamon right into the dough so when you knead it both before and after rising the smell is heavenly. Enjoy! 

Cinnamon Raisin Nut Bread
Source: Adapted from Recipe Girl

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
3 cups all-purpose flour + more for surface work

2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a microwavable cup, heat butter and warm milk in short bursts; stir together until butter is melted. In a large bowl, stir sugar, salt and cinnamon until combined. Pour warm butter/milk mixture into the bowl; stir.

In a glass measuring cup or small bowl, mix yeast and warm water until yeast is dissolved; pour into the bowl and stir. Mix in 2 1/2 cups flour.

Turn out dough onto a floured board (dough will be sticky). Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup of flour onto the dough and knead until the dough is soft and smooth (4 to 5 minutes). Add additional sprinkles of flour, if needed.

Put dough into a greased bowl; turn the dough over so the top of the dough is greased too. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place for about 60 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Punch down the dough in the bowl with your fist. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead for about 1 minute. Roll dough out into a basic rectangular shape. Use a butter knife or your clean fingers to spread 2 tablespoons softened butter on the surface of the rolled out dough.

In a small bowl, mix white sugar, brown sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle this mixture on top of the butter. Roll up dough and form into a loaf. Place into a buttered 5x9-inch bread pan, seam side down. Cover with a clean dish towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Score risen dough in the pan by cutting 3 slashes diagonally across the top of the loaf with a sharp knife. Bake bread for 35 to 45 minutes, or until golden brown. Fully baked bread should sound hollow when tapped. Turn out bread and let cool on a wire rack.

Makes one loaf

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chicken and Dumplings

Surprised to see a hearty, warm you to the tips of your toes soup in July? It isn't very strange when you consider that we have had a fairly cold summer and I've had it on my menu since late spring and have just now gotten around to making it. Bite-sized chunks of chicken, doughy dumplings, and thick, salty gravy. Yum!

I thought this was going to be a lot harder than it was and easier is always a nice surprise. While the chicken and veggies were simmering, it was quick enough to mix up the dough for the dumplings. Add the soup to make a gravy base, drop the dumplings in, let cook for a few minutes, and then dish up and eat. It really can't get much easier than that. Enjoy!

Chicken and Dumplings
Source: Slightly adapted from Food Network - Paula Deen

Chicken Stew:
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 8 pieces
3 ribs celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 teaspoon House Seasoning, recipe follows
1 (10 3/4-ounce) can cream of chicken soup

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
Ice water

Prepare House Seasoning in a small bowl. Place the chicken, celery, onion, bay leaves, bouillon, and House Seasoning in a large pot. Add 2 quarts of water and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Simmer the chicken until it is tender and the juices run clear. Remove the chicken from the pot, cool slightly, and tear/cut into bite size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the pot. Keep warm over low heat.

Mix the flour with the salt and mound together in a mixing bowl. Beginning at the center of the mound, drizzle a small amount of ice water over the flour. Using your fingers, and moving from the center to the sides of the bowl, gradually incorporate about 3/4 cup of ice water. Knead the dough and form it into ball.
Dust a good amount of flour onto a clean work surface. Roll out the dough (it will be firm), working from center to 1/8-inch thick. Let the dough relax for several minutes.

Add the cream of chicken soup to the pot with the chicken and simmer gently over medium-low heat.
Cut the dough into 1-inch pieces. Pull a piece in half and drop the halves into the simmering soup. Repeat. Do not stir the chicken once the dumplings have been added. Gently move the pot in a circular motion so the dumplings become submerged and cook evenly. Cook until the dumplings float and are no longer doughy, 3 to 4 minutes.

To serve, ladle chicken, gravy, and dumplings into warm bowls.

Note: If the chicken stew is too thin it can be thickened before the dumplings are added. Simply mix together 2 tablespoons cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water then whisk this mixture into the stew.

House Seasoning:
1 cup salt
1/4 cup black pepper
1/4 cup garlic powder

Mix ingredients together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas and Breakfast Burritos

Homemade tortillas have been on my to do list for a while. In fact, over the past month they have been on our menu 3 different times. Two of those I never took the time to make them and just ended up doing an egg dish for breakfast, but I finally decided to take the time and make them to pair with our breakfast burritos. I made these the same day that I made the homemade phyllo dough for baklava so I definitely got some practice with rolling out dough until it was thin.

While these were fun to make and tasted fine as a part of our burrito I don't know that I'll be rushing to make them again. I felt like the time spent on them wasn't necessarily worth the finished product. I know that it's better for you to not have pre-packaged foods but the few times we eat tortillas I can't see it being a problem by buying ones already prepared. They also didn't store well for me. We didn't end up using all of the 8 to 10 that I made and when I stuck them in a ziploc bag they weren't great as leftovers the next day. It still was a fun process though. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Flour Tortillas
Source: Hallee the Homemaker

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup warm water

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Cut the shortening into the flour mixture and thoroughly combine. Add the warm water and mix with a fork until the dough forms a ball. If you need more water, add it a tablespoon at a time.

Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead about 20 times. Put back into the bowl, cover with towel, and let rest for about 15 minutes.

For 8-inch tortillas, divide dough into 12 equal portions. For 10-inch tortillas, divide dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each piece of dough into a ball. On a lightly floured surface, use a rolling pin to flatten each ball into an 8-inch or 10-inch circle. The tortilla will be very thin. Stack between sheets of wax paper.

Place a tortilla on a medium-hot ungreased skillet or griddle. Cook about 30 seconds or until the dough starts to puff and bubble up. Turn and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from pan. Place in a tortilla heater, in foil, or use immediately.

For Breakfast Burritos:
Use the tortilla as a wrap around your favorite breakfast items. Suggestions include: eggs, bacon, sausage, ham, tomatoes, peppers, cheese, olives, salsa, sour cream, guacamole . . .

Friday, July 8, 2011

Cheese and Bacon Muffins

A savory variation of the raspberry muffins that I posted a bit ago. I would have to say that they kind of grew on me. First impression was that they were a bit bland even with the addition of cheese and bacon. Beyond the first one, and even into the second day, my opinion of them improved. Even with the improvement, my preference is definitely to use this batter with a fruit and venture onto the sweet side. When and if I use this recipe for a savory muffin again, I might decide to add some diced green chiles or something with a bit of pep.  
I did use whole wheat pastry flour instead of all-purpose flour like I used with the raspberry muffins so that might have made a difference. Also, I reduced the amount of sugar and added in shredded cheddar cheese and bacon. Enjoy!

Cheese and Bacon Muffins
Makes a dozen muffins

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup cooked bacon, crumbled

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Prepare muffin pan.

Stir flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and sugar together. Make a well in the center.

Beat eggs with a fork. Stir in milk and melted butter. Pour into well in flour mixture. Mix quickly and lightly with a fork until moist. Gently stir in the cheese and bacon.

Divide batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups. Turn oven down to 400 degrees F before baking. 

Bake for 25 minutes or until golden.

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July

Happy birthday, America!!!

Something light, fun, and festive for celebrating Independence Day. Strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries layered with homemade whipped cream. Red, white, and blue! Enjoy!

Friday, July 1, 2011

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones

I love scones, in case you couldn't tell! Any chance I get to make a baked good for breakfast my mind usually heads to scones first. Don't get me wrong, I love a good muffin or some sweet bread or even a coffee cake but there is something about a scone.

For this past weekend, which happened to be Father's Day, we were camping. I still wanted to have a special breakfast and since it is somewhat difficult to whip up a gourmet meal with just a few pans and a limited amount of space I decided that I would instead find a scone recipe to prepare ahead of time that we could just take along with us to enjoy with a side of fruit.

The original recipe for this was for white chocolate cherry scones but I didn't happen to have any dried cherries in my cupboard. I did have dried cranberries though (a staple in our household) so I checked with hubby to see if he would be agreeable to that substitution. As you can see from this post, he was.

I whipped up a quick batch while finishing packing for our camping trip. I stuck them in the freezer to cool them a bit faster so I could store them in a bag before putting them with our other non-refrigerated foods. And that is where they stayed our entire camping trip. Yep, that's right. I left them in the freezer right next to the chicken breasts, chicken nuggets, and chicken and apple sausages I was also supposed to bring. Good plan, poor execution. He did get to enjoy one the day we came back into town, and since it was only one day after Father's Day it wasn't too long of a wait. Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cranberry Scones
Source: Adapted from My Baking Addiction

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in butter (mixture should resemble coarse meal), then stir in dried cranberries and white chocolate.

In a small bowl, whisk sour cream and egg until smooth; stir in vanilla.
Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. (The dough will be sticky in places, and there may not seem to be enough liquid at first, but as you press, the dough will come together.)

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7- to 8-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles (or other desired shape); place on a cookie sheet (preferably lined with parchment paper), about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm or at room temperature.

If desired, drizzle with melted white chocolate after the scones have cooled.

Add a light egg wash to the top of the scones and a sprinkle of coarse sugar before placing in the oven.
Add in a variety of ingredients to make your signature scone, think chocolate chips, nuts, espresso powder…endless possibilities!