Monday, April 30, 2012

Blueberry Coconut Steel-Cut Oatmeal

Do you know hard it was to get a picture of this stuff? Extremely hard. Mushy blue-purple oatmeal is not photogenic (at least not for me) no matter how you dish it. Calling it mushy isn't a negative by the way, it's just what it is as oatmeal. Thankfully the blueberry sauce, fresh berries, and coconut add enough of a diversion that you can maybe get past that to the recipe.

My son and husband loved this version of baked oatmeal. Me, not so much. How could I forget that I am not the biggest blueberry fan? Maybe I should clarify. Blueberry muffins or breads, sure. Fresh blueberries, yes. Cooked blueberries . . . no. I guess the title and the thought of making something different overpowered my memory. Maybe I thought the coconut flavor would be more dominant. I am not sure. What I do know is that this oatmeal is overpoweringly blueberry (at least overpowering for me), so if you are a blueberry fan then this would probably be a tasty dish for you. Enjoy!

Blueberry Coconut Baked Steel-Cut Oatmeal
Source: Family Fresh Cooking

1 1/2 cups Steel-Cut Irish oats
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk
2 cups light unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries (could use frozen, do not thaw first)
1/4 cup unsweetened dried blueberries
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flake
natural sweetener to taste

Blueberry Sauce
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Optional Toppings
toasted nuts
coconut flake
whipped cream
extra blueberries (dried and fresh)
coconut milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the center. Lightly coat a 13X9 baking dish with cooking spray. Combine all oatmeal ingredients in a large bowl, adding blueberries and coconut last. Sweeten to taste. Bake for about one hour. (The oatmeal will appear not done when you take it out of the oven.) Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Put it in the refrigerator overnight for best results.

Reheat oatmeal. While reheating make the blueberry sauce. Heat the blueberries with a splash of water over medium high heat. When you hear them sizzle reduce heat to medium and cook for about 5 minutes until a sauce consistency. Mash the blueberries against the side of the pan with a spatula, if necessary.

Scoop oatmeal into a dish. Top with blueberry sauce and optional toppings.

Makes 8-10 servings

Friday, April 27, 2012

Daring Bakers - Nazook and Nutmeg Cake

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake. 

I don't make a lot of Armenian foods. I don't have an Armenian cookbook. I wouldn't even have known that these particular desserts were Armenian if I had not been told that in the description of this month's challenge. To me they seem like very simple, tasty, everyday recipes.

I decided to start out making the Nutmeg Cake. It seemed like it was the easier of the two and I figured if I could only get to one during the month, this would be the one that I would want to bake. It was very easy to make, smelled heavenly while baking, was delicious right out of the oven, and tasted equally yummy after being frozen for a few weeks and then reheated.

The only quirky thing was that while I was baking this cake we also had barbecued pork spareribs in the crockpot. For whatever reason I had this incredible sense of Thanksgiving. I think it was the pork/poultry cooking that reminded me of turkey, and the nutmeg cake baking that reminded me of spices and pumpkin pie. It was a bit funny to think about how smells really transport you to a certain time or place. 
Skip ahead to a few weeks later when I decided to make the Nazook. I had never heard of Nazook before but it looked like a fairly simple pastry. I believe that if a Nazook is following the traditional flavoring it has a purely vanilla filling. I decided to make the traditional vanilla pastry with half of the dough, but also to branch out a bit with the other half. I'll get to that in a few minutes.
First, I made the pastry dough on a Saturday evening intending to whip up a batch on Sunday after letting the dough rest overnight in the fridge. Even though it is a yeast dough it doesn't puff up and double or triple in size like a bread dough. I didn't end up getting back to the dough until Monday evening, but it was still great to work with. I easily divided it into fourths, kneaded a fourth of the dough a bit to warm it up, and then rolled it out. The vanilla filling didn't crumble as much as it sounded like it was supposed to but it still went on fine. I rolled up my dough, cut it into 8 pieces and stuck them on my pan. I wasn't really sure how much I could expect them to rise so I decided to to another of the fourths with vanilla filling and just stick them on the same pan. That might have been a mistake.
Instead of turning into Nazook pieces they turned into Nazook pinwheels! You can see that a few of them turned out "kind of" right, but all the rest popped open and laid on their side. Since this was my first batch I had no idea what I had done wrong. I decided for my next batch though I would put more room between them and hope that they didn't "tip" over.

Well, it was either that hope or the fact that they were made with non-traditional dark chocolate and dried cherries that did the trick. Not sure, but these guys looked just about perfect to me! Enjoy!

I'll post the recipes at a later date. It is past my bedtime, and almost my posting time and I am hitting the hay.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Corned Beef and Cabbage

At the beginning of March when I was planning my menu I decided to make corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick's Day. You see, last year I had planned to make corned beef and cabbage and found a great recipe to use. It was a day or two before St. Patty's and I pulled up the recipe only to realize that the corned beef required 10 days of brining and I only had 2 days left before I needed it!

After that experience I knew this year would be the year to try it. I figured that since it was only the 1st or 2nd when I was planning my menu I would have plenty of time to buy the beef brisket and get it brining for the 10 days. Hmmmm, that ended up being pretty far from the truth.

We waited for the grocery store advertisement to show a sale on corned beef. We waited and waited and waited. Finally, we just went and bought it and I believe the next day is when we got the ad that said it was on sale. Go figure. Well, that put us into our 10 days of brining in time to meet the March 17th dinner deadline, but we were still close. Maybe a day or two short of brining or a day or two late on dinner. That wasn't the only delay though. Life and work happened and the brining went from 10 days to 12 days.

When we finally got to making it I was kind of tired of the idea of corned beef but we spent a pretty penny on the brisket so we were determined to go ahead and get it made.

It was a bit of a feat just to get the stuff brining, but the overall dish just wasn't appealing to everyone in our family. I am not a fan of big chunks of meat so I had to cut all my meat pieces down. The youngest member of our family took one bite and declared that he didn't like it (that shouldn't be too surprising though). Even my husband who managed to muscle down a bowl had to drink a 32 oz. bottle of water afterward because it was so salty.

The problem is that I'm not sure if it was supposed to be so salty or if it was the extra few days of brining, and we most likely will not be experimenting to find out. What I do know is that this piece of meat is pretty expensive and the fact that it wasn't a big hit at our house means it most likely won't be gracing our table again. You might be able to play around with it though. Just make sure you don't have any issues with sodium should you choose to make an attempt. Enjoy!  

Corned Beef and Cabbage
Source: Foodnetwork

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Honey Pecan Salmon

We seem to be doing some healthier eating around here so I mostly have main dishes to share with you over the next few posts. I'm still working on those main dish photos, so if you want to see what this looks like in a more appetizing way hop on over to the source page. She has a beautiful picture of her salmon.

I ended up making the full amount of marinade, yet I only put it on two salmon fillets. I didn't realize this until I was thinking about the calorie count and realizing that it would have been a little higher than what she had listed since I only baked two fillets. Bummer, but very tasty. I loved the crunch of the pecans and the sweet of the honey. I am not a huge fish fan, but this is a recipe I would use again. Enjoy! 

Honey Pecan Salmon
Source: The Girl Who Ate Everything

1/4 cup honey
4 teaspoon finely chopped pecans
1 tablespoon soy sauce
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine first three ingredients in a large zip-top bag. Sprinkle fish with salt and pepper; add to bag and seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 15 minutes, but up to overnight.

Remove fish and nuts from bag, reserving marinade. Place fish on foil lined pan and top with nuts.

Bake for 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily with a fork, basting fish twice with reserved marinade while baking.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cookie Bouquet

Giving cookies as gifts must be one of my love languages! Many, many years ago, before I started baking and decorating sugar cookies I made a cookie bouquet for a birthday gift for someone. At the time it was a very "out of the box" kind of thing to do. Now, it seems that cookie bouquets are all the rage. Fun to give, but usually very expensive for the product you are getting. It was precisely the inflated cost that had me looking to make my own bouquet so long ago.

I realize that this is probably a much simpler version of what you might buy, but it just goes to show that you can give a fun gift at a much lower cost. I bought the terra cotta pot for around $1.00 and painted it in pretty "girly" spring colors to match the tissue and confetti paper. I used a special chocolate chip cookie recipe that worked well for large sized cookie pops. It was a while ago, but I believe I made butterscotch chip, chocolate chip, and chocolate chip with walnuts.

Now, these many years later I might do something different. Maybe spice it up with colors, or add more pizazz to the pot or decorations, or do iced sugar cookies. Who knows? The possibilities are numerous, so I guess I'll just have to find more occasions in which to parcel out my baked goods. Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta

Once again, the photographer that I am not finds it near impossible to try to get an appetizing picture of a main dish. While this picture does not do this meal justice, it was a hearty and satisfying fare. The dish can be made healthier by substituting the soup and sour cream with lower calorie/fat options, but I thought it was fine the way it was. The full packet of ranch dressing did make it a bit salty, but I didn't think it was completely overpowering. It was a quick dish to prepare and then leave in the crockpot for the afternoon so it will most likely make an appearance at our table again. Enjoy!

Bacon Ranch Chicken Pasta
Source: Healthified Kitchen

2 butterball turkey bacon strips, cooked and crumbled
1 tsp minced garlic
1 package ranch dressing mix (or less if desired)
1 10.75 oz can condensed cream of chicken soup
1 cup sour cream
16 oz. chicken breasts, frozen or defrosted/raw
8 oz. pasta, cooked

Combine the first five ingredients to make a sauce. Place frozen or defrosted/raw chicken in a slow cooker sprayed with nonstick cooking spray; pour sauce over the top (do NOT include water like the soup can mentions). Cook on high for 3.5 hours. Shred chicken with two forks. Cook pasta per package instructions on stove. Serve chicken over pasta.

Makes 4 servings

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Lemon Bars

These yummy lemon bars are the last installment of baby shower goodies. Amazingly, in all my years of baking I had yet to make lemon bars. I'm not sure why I waited so long. Maybe because they seem to be temperamental at times, or because they can be a lot of lemon in one bite. Who knows. The fact that they are so bright and cheery in this gray, dreary winter and spring should be enough of an excuse to whip up a batch.

As I type this I realize that I have a recipe that my neighbor got from me years ago and used every time she made lemon bars, however I seemed to have forgotten this fact and went searching on the computer for a recipe to use. I think I fall back on the internet way too much when looking for information, namely recipes. It is interesting to think about how I used to go to my recipe books and food magazines to get ideas and try new recipes, and now I just type a food name into a search engine and I get more sites than I can visit. My poor cookbooks that are up in my cupboard. I probably need to make a concerted effort to pull them out more often so they don't feel deprived.

Anyway . . . this particular recipe mentioned that it was a lemon bar recipe for lemon lovers. It could be described as more of a lemon custard sitting atop a shortbread. When you look at the photos that accompany the original post, what drew me to it was the almost perfect ratio of lemon to shortbread. The only downfall, it is definitely lemony. I mean a pucker up, tart, lemon flavor. So if you don't go for overly tart and lemony and are looking more for a sweet lemon bar then this recipe may not be for you.

This recipe was very straight forward and easy to make. The only difference for me was that it took much longer for my lemon bars to cook through than the 20 minutes stated in the original recipe. I just kept checking them every 5 minutes or so until the edges were firm. If I recall correctly, the center was still a bit wobbly. After completely cooling, it was easy to pull the aluminum foil out of the pan to cut into squares. I believe I was able to cut my 9x9 square into 36 pieces because I wanted smaller bite sized bars for the shower. Enjoy!

Lemon Bars
Source: Baking Bites

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp lemon zest
1/2 cup butter, room temperature

4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups sugar
1 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed and strained

Preheat oven to 350F. Line 9×9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil (bottom and up all 4 sides).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Cut butter into chunks and add to flour mixture. Blend in with an electric mixer at low speed until mixture forms coarse, sandy crumbs. Pour into pan and press mixture down (with your fingers or the back of a spoon) into an even layer. Bake for 16-19 minutes, until just lightly browned around the edges.

While crust is baking, make filling. Whisk together all filling ingredients in a large bowl.

When the crust comes out of the oven and is still hot, pour in filling mixture.
Bake for about 20 minutes, or until filling is set and does not jiggle when the pan is gently shaken.

Cool completely before slicing. Top slices with confectioners’ sugar to serve.

Makes about 24 bars

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sun-dried Tomato Penne Pasta with Chicken

What in the world! Why is it that I can't seem to get ahead in my posts. First it was report cards, then conferences, and now spring break. Just one thing after another. However, this "thing" that is causing me to be behind is a good thing since it means I am out camping for the week, spending time with my family, and relaxing.

So, on to the food! I found this recipe on pinterest (yes, yes, it seems to be the place to be searching these days) and it looked and sounded pretty good so I thought I'd schedule it in for one of our dinners on the menu. It is a straight forward recipe, and I followed it pretty much to the letter. I added shredded chicken to give it a bit more oomphf in the belly. I also decided to double the pasta (which would basically be like halving the sauce) so that it wasn't quite so high calorie. It was a tasty dish that left you wanting to dish up seconds for sure. The only negative was that when heating up leftovers the next day the smaller amount of sauce to noodle ratio made the noodles a bit drier. In hindsight, while saving on a few calories it also made it a bit less creamy. I guess you have to choose the lesser of two evils for you. Enjoy!

Sun-dried Tomato Penne Pasta
Source: Very Best Baking

2 cups (8 oz.) dry penne pasta (or 16 oz. if you want to double the pasta)
8 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (about 1/3 cup)
12 oz. evaporated milk
2 cups (8 oz.) Italian four-blend cheese
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and shredded

Prepare pasta according to package directions, adding sun-dried tomatoes to boiling pasta water for last two minutes of cooking time; drain.

Meanwhile, combine evaporated milk, cheese, basil, garlic powder and pepper in medium saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until cheese is melted. Remove from heat.

Add pasta and sun-dried tomatoes to cheese sauce; add shredded chicken; stir until combined.

Makes 7 - 1/2 cup servings