cafela: (Default)
I know, it's been a couple of weeks between postings. Not that I wasn't cooking, it's just that with the holidays, I didn't get on the computer as much. I was too busy visiting family and making delicious foods!

I first tasted this amazing dip two years ago, at my friend Janet's Boxing Day (aka: the day after Christmas) Party. The great thing about Buffalo Chicken Dip is that you get the flavor without too much spice (though you can keep a bottle of hot sauce nearby for those that want to add it to theirs). This isn't quite the same recipe as Janet's; there are a lot of variants, and they're all good. All you'll need to go with it are some kind of chip or cracker. Tostitos Scoops are good, as are Ritz and Clubhouse crackers.

Now, some people insist that if you're using ranch instead of blue cheese, you're wrong. Well, they're wrong. You can use either. I prefer ranch because blue cheese is a little overpowering, especially for this dip. You could even use both. But this is my recipe, so I'm just going to tell you how to make it the way I do. Experiment with your own approach--odds are it will still be awesome. This makes a lot of dip, but it keeps in the fridge and reheats easily; you can also always halve the recipe.

I only have the one picture because I didn't originally intend to post this, but everyone was asking for the recipe, so I snapped the pic you see below so there would at least be a picture of the final product. It's an easy recipe, though, so step-by-step photos aren't necessary anyway.



Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

3 10 oz cans chicken (Sometimes I find 12 oz cans, and those work fine too--more chicken is great!)

1 1/4 cup/10oz hot sauce (I use Texas Pete or Frank's, and I often just buy Texas Pete's "Mild Buffalo Sauce" and use half of that, half regular hot sauce)

1 cup/8oz ranch dressing (any brand)

8oz cream cheese

2 cups of preshredded mexican blend cheese (you can use plain cheddar)

9x9 baking dish that's at least 3 inches deep


First, get a medium sized pot out and put it on medium heat. In it, pour the ranch dressing and add the cream cheese. Drain the liquid from two of the cans of chicken into the pot as well. Don't add the chicken itself, just the liquid. Stir everything together, and continue to stir occasionally until the cream cheese has melted.

Drain the third can of chicken, but not into the pot(2 cans is just right, 3 makes the dip too watery). In the baking dish, dump all three cans of chicken. Add the hot sauce, and mix, being sure to break up the chicken into smaller, more dip-friendly pieces. Mix in about 1 1/2 cups of your cheese at this point.

Once the ranch/cream cheese mixture is done (namely, once the cream cheese is melted), pour it over the chicken/hot sauce/cheese mix. Stir a little. Sprinkle the rest of the cheese on top, and mix it just slightly (in other words, don't let it just be a mound of cheese on top; let some of the dressing mixture be worked into it). Most of the recipes I've come across for this dip prefer to layer the ingredients, but I think they're better mixed up. Plus, if you have a layer of just cheese on the top, it can overcook and create a weird hard top. Better to mix it in and avoid that.

Bake in the oven at 350 for about 20-25 minutes, and serve hot. This can easily be reheated in the oven if you're taking it somewhere. My family devoured this dip on Christmas, but if you end up with leftovers, they can be kept in the fridge and reheated in the microwave for up to a week.
cafela: (nutmeg)
It's the holidays, and I like to bake treats for my coworkers to share on the last day before the break--ah, the joys of working in academia; we might not make much money, but we do get Christmas break!

Anyway, this year I came upon this tutorial for making apple pies shaped like roses on Pinterest, and decided I had to attempt it. I figured, worst case scenario, it doesn't work and I end up with a normal apple pie. I wanted to make some individual mini-pies for coworkers that had gifted me little presents, and one larger pie to share with everyone. So that's what I did.



The trick to the roses is that the first one is rough, and you don't want to use crisp or long apples because they break more easily. So when you buy your apples, buy short, squat ones, not tallish ones. Unless you are amazing at cutting thin slices, you'll need a mandolin slicer to get them thin enough. Also, you kind of need to hold the rose in your hand until you're done with it, so it's hard to do one that's the size of an entire normal-sized pie. It could be done, though, it would just take more work. I recommend starting with smaller, mini-pies/tarts first.



Rosy Apple Pie

Ingredients:

2-3 red apples, not too crisp

2 tb lemon juice*

4 tb sugar*

1 tsp cinnamon*

3/4 tsp nutmeg*

**You need a mandolin-style slicer**

pie crust (whatever pie crust recipe you prefer; refrigerated dough is fine)

*I eyeballed these when I added them, so this is a guesstimate--add what seems to be right for the amount of apples you have.



Go ahead and put your pie crust in your pan (or in your mini pans). Next, wash and core your apples. Do NOT peel them! You want the red contrast of the peel so that the rose shape stands out.

To core your apples, slice them so that you get a square core. Go here to see what I mean. Stop once you reach the part where the core is removed. From that point, you'll need a mandolin to slice your apples. Very thin slices are key to being able to make the rose. Once you have your apples sliced with the mandolin, you're ready for the next step.



Dump the slices into a bowl, and add the rest of the ingredients; mix them in with your hands (to help prevent breaking the slices. Now, you get to make the rose! Start with one slice curved in on itself, forming a kind of tight circle. Then add another slice to sort of "close" that slice. Keep adding slices around and around, building by overlapping the slices you just added.



It will be tricky the first time. My second rose turned out a lot better than the first. Be sure to have good look at the first tutorial I linked to, because she has great step-by-step pictures. When you've got the rose big enough, set it into the pie pan, and add a few more slices at the edges as needed. Repeat until you've made all the pies you want to make. This recipe should net you about 4 mini pies or one large pie.





Now, keep in mind that if you messed up a bunch of your slices, it's no big deal--use them to create an edge around the rose (you'll see that's what I did with my larger pie). If you can't get the rose at all, you can still make a great apple pie by layering the slices flat in the pan, or even just dumping them in haphazardly.



Bake in the oven at 375 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden. Cool for about 10 minutes, then serve!


cafela: (ninja biscuits)
I love cornbread, and so does my husband. It's an essential part of the dressing I make for the holidays, too. It goes great with chili, or pork chops, or a bowl of beef stew. This recipe is very close to the one you'll find on White Lily cornmeal; my family uses that recipe, and I've tweaked it over time. Our original recipe calls for a whole stick of butter, and it is good that way, but it's just as good with half the butter. It has a good crust and soft, light crumb. It is NOT sweet, because proper cornbread shouldn't have sugar in it. If you add sugar, technically you're making "johnny cake," not cornbread (however, if you really prefer sweet cornbread, all you have to do is add a couple of tablespoons of sugar to the batter, and that should do).

Back in 2009, the library I worked in had a cornbread contest for our dept. chair, who was trying to find a recipe that approximated the cornbread his grandmother used to make. This recipe came in 2nd by his judgement, and first by popular vote. So it's not just my family that likes it, I promise!

If you want to make a Mexican-style cornbread, follow this recipe, but add some chopped jalapenos and peppers. I suppose you could add other things in, too, but I've not tried them myself. I tend to prefer my cornbread plain with some butter, though it's buttery enough that you can forgo that. It will keep for 4-5 days if wrapped/in an air-tight container.

To make this cornbread, you NEED a cast iron skillet/pan. It does not turn out properly in a regular pan. You can buy a preseasoned one very cheaply these days.



Buttermilk Cornbread

Ingredients:

1/2 stick of unsalted butter

2 eggs

2 cups White Lily Self-rising cornmeal

About 1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup oil

Turn the oven to 425 F. Place the half stick of butter into your cast iron skillet, and put the skillet in the oven while it preheats. It is very, very important that the skillet and oven be hot before you put the batter in later. This is how you get the nice crust on your cornbread that gives it extra flavor and great texture.

Lightly beat the eggs together in your mixing bowl. Add the cornmeal, buttermilk, and oil to the egg mixture and whisk together until blended. The batter should be like a thick pancake batter.



Take your skillet out of the oven--remember to use an oven mitt! It should be hot and the butter should be melted.



Pour the batter in and use a spoon or spatula to level it if needed. I like to make sure the butter is sort of evenly spilling over the top, but it's not crucial that you do that. Bake until the top is golden brown (about 20-25 minutes).



You should be able to flip it out of the skillet immediately without it sticking to the bottom. Enjoy!

cafela: (Default)
I was first introduced to this pastry/cookie via the vending machine on the first floor of CIDEF in Angers, France. CIDEF was part of the university where I spent my first semester abroad in France, and while on the campus, if my friends and I weren't in class or hanging out in our program director's office, we were often near the vending machines, catching a quick snack before going back to class.

The madeleines from the machine were okay. Not great, but not bad. Better than the dry ones you can get at Starbucks. At the time, they were one of the better snacks on offer, and definitely one of the more filling. At some point, I bought some from a pastry shop, and was surprised that they were even tastier than I thought they'd be. Freshness makes all the difference!

The great thing about madeleines is that they're really easy to make. The real trick is having a madeleine pan so that you get them in the proper shape. But even if you don't have a madeleine pan, you could still make them in mini muffin or even regular muffin tins. Amazon has some affordable madeleine pans. For the recipe below, I got about 24 madeleines, so I had to use my pan 2 times. Luckily, they bake very quickly. :)

Another issue with madeleines is the hump. Some claim that the hump is the sign of a good madeleine; others say madeleines with no humps are the marker of a good chef. All I know is that if you want the hump, fill the mold to the top of the edge. If you don't, fill the mold about 2/3 full.



Madeleines

Ingredients:

2 eggs (at room temperature!)

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

grated zest of one lemon

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp lemon extract*

1/2 tsp almond extract*

5 tb unsalted butter, melted and cooled

*If you don't have one or either of these, just use more vanilla.


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease your madeleine pan, even if it's non-stick.

Relative temperatures are important in this recipe if you want your madeleines to come out crisp and light. Start by combining your dry ingredients(flour, baking powder, salt) in a bowl. Next, beat the eggs and sugar together at medium-high speed until they're thick and pale (about 2-4 minutes in a stand mixer).



Now, add the zest and the vanilla and other extracts. Beat until mixed in (maybe 15 seconds?). Next the fun part--folding in the dry ingredients! This is the only onerous part of madeleines; you want to be careful to fold in the dry ingredients (about a third of the dry stuff at a time) and not just mix it in, because you want to keep the lightness and volume that the whipped eggs are giving you. So just take your time, and once you have all the dry ingredients folded in, you then fold in the melted butter. Don't be dumb like I was once, and forget to fold in the butter at the end.

Most recipes I've seen for madeleines say that you should chill the batter for about 3 hours (up to 24 hours) before baking. I somehow didn't see that step in all the recipes I consulted, and went ahead and made them. They turned out fine. So if you're in a hurry, you can skip that step, though after filling the molds, you will want to put the remaining batter in the fridge to chill while each batch bakes.



Let each batch bake for somewhere between 6-12 minutes. Look for the edges to turn golden brown. You'll have to keep an eye on it for your first batch, because the time is going to depend on how hot your oven gets and the size of your madeleine molds. Mine are usually done within 7 minutes, but most recipes I've seen said 12 minutes.

When you get your madeleines out, toss them in sugar (powdered or regular both work). They're at their best when they're still warm from the oven, so be sure to taste-test/quality control at least one. ;) Serve within 48 hours. They go great with coffee, tea, as dessert, or as breakfast!

cafela: (salt is magical)
One of my go-to French meals is the quiche. All you need is a crust, some eggs, milk, and then you put whatever else you want inside, and top it off with cheese. It's like the pizza of France, if you think about it. My favorite quiche is the Quiche Lorraine, but it's hard to get lardons (similar to bacon, but oh so much more delicious) here, so this is the variant I make most of the time. I have an actual quiche/tart pan, but if you don't, you can use a 9-inch or larger pie pan, or an 8 inch spring-form pan.

A lot of people here mistakenly think that quiche is a breakfast food--in France it isn't; it's strictly a lunch or dinner meal. It isn't quite enough for a meal by itself, but pair it with a salad or soup and it's plenty. My husband likes to eat it with salsa, and while I think that's sacrilege, some of you might want to try it that way.



Quiche with Prosciutto & Baby Bella Mushrooms

Ingredients:

1 pre-made pie crust

1/4 lb prosciutto, diced

6 eggs

2/3 c half and half (or 1/3 c milk + 1/3 c cream)

1 tsp garlic salt

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp thyme or herbes de provence

3 to 4 oz baby bella mushrooms, chopped/sliced

5 oz shredded cheese (I use a mix of sharp cheddar and swiss; mozzerella works, so would colby or fontina or gruyere)

An ingredient note: I get prosciutto from the deli, sliced sandwich thin, which I then slice into 1/2 inch squares. If you don't want to run to the deli for prosciutto, you can substitute 8 slices of thick bacon, cooked but NOT crunchy (it's going to cook in the oven too, so you don't want it to overcook) and diced. I find prosciutto a lot easier to deal with than bacon, but my husband prefers the bacon flavor, so it's really up to you which to use; it will be tasty either way.



To start, preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Put your pie crust in your pan. You do not need to grease your pan; if you're concerned about the pie crust sticking, put a small circle of parchment in the bottom.You do not need to precook your crust.

In one large mixing bowl, whip the eggs until they are well mixed and starting to get a little frothy/light yellow. Add the milk/cream/half and half, the salt, pepper, and herbs, and mix until well combined. Set aside.

Dump the prosciutto, mushrooms, and 4 oz of the shredded cheese into the pan and even out. I try to have a good mix so that each bite gets some of everything. See below:



Now you just pour the egg/milk/salt/pepper/herb mixture over the ingredients in the pan. If you're using a larger pan and don't have enough of the egg mixture, you can just whip a couple more eggs and pour those over to add to it. Sprinkle the rest of your cheese over the top, and pop it into the oven.



Cook for about 25 minutes, until set. It may poof up a lot, but that will fall back down once it's out of the oven and cooling. It will keep for about 5 days, and it's just as good reheated as it is fresh out of the oven.

cafela: (alice in wonderland)
I love pineapple, and my husband loves coconut. When I stumbled across the recipe for this bread on Pinterest, I knew I had to try it sometime soon. A couple of days ago, the grocery store had pineapple on sale, and that decided it.

There's a lot to love about this recipe. It tastes very fresh, and there's a good crunchiness throughout the bread. Best of all, you can do this as jumbo muffins, and simply cut the baking time in half. It comes together very easily, and isn't overly sweet (and if you worry about that, you can leave out some of the sugar).



Pineapple Coconut Bread

Ingredients:

7oz bag sweetened shredded coconut

1 stick butter, at room temperature (NOT COLD)

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup or 8oz sour cream

2 1/2 cups fresh pineapple, diced into chunks (a little over half of a pineapple)


Turn the oven on 350 degrees F.

First, toast about 2/3 c of your shredded coconut(the rest you will save for topping). Spread it over a cookie sheet, and stick that in the oven for about 6 minutes. Watch it, because you don't want to burn it, you just want to bring out more of the flavor. Some of it should get to be a nice golden color. You can dice up your pineapple while you wait for it to toast. When the time is up or the coconut has turned golden, pull it from the oven and let it cool.

In a small bowl, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.

In a large bowl, mix your butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add eggs, one at a time. Next, add about 1/3 of the flour mixture. Then add half of your sour cream. When that has combined, repeat with another 1/3 of the flour mixture, and the rest of the sour cream. When that has combined, add the last 1/3 of the flour mixture, and mix just until everything is incorporated.
Now you get to add the toasted coconut and the pineapple.



When that's done, pour the batter into a greased 9x5 loaf pan or into jumbo muffin tins. I did a little of both, because our loaf pan is 9x4 and I didn't want a super tall loaf.



Sprinkle the top of the loaf or muffins with the untoasted coconut. If you're doing jumbo muffins, at this point you can just pop them into the oven for about 30 minutes (regular muffins should probably cook about 15-20 minutes). If you're doing a loaf, you'll need to cover the top with tin foil for the first 30 minutes to keep the coconut from burning (or you can just add the coconut topping after it's baked for 30 minutes). The loaf will need to cook for about an hour total.



Let the muffins/loaf cool before eating--the pineapple will retain a lot of heat, and you don't want to burn your mouth just because you were a little impatient. ;)

cafela: (Default)
I made this for the first time at my sister-in-law's house, while visiting in July. She had a bunch of zucchini to use up, and I wanted to bake something to thank them for letting us stay with them, and this recipe was born! It's incredibly easy, since you pretty much just throw the ingredients together, mix, and bake. It's a pretty standard zucchini bread recipe, with some extra spices added to make it extra delicious. My niece and nephew gobbled them up quickly.



Cinnamon Nutmeg Zucchini Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups flour

1 tsp salt

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tb cinnamon

1/2 tb nutmeg

3 eggs

1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar (if you don't have brown sugar, just sub another cup of white sugar)

1 tb vanilla

2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 medium zucchini--if you grate it and end up with a little more than 2 cups, it's fine)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease 2 loaf pans or 24 standard muffin tins.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs. Add the oil, sugar, and vanilla, then mix. Add the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg (if you want, you can mix the dry ingredients in a separate bowl first, but I've found it doesn't make a difference in this recipe). Mix.

Add the grated zucchini, and mix with a spoon (the grated strips will get caught in a whisk/etc.) until incorporated. Pour batter into loaf pans or spoon into muffin cups. Bake loaves for 45-55 minutes, until a knife or toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Muffins will bake for a shorter time; start checking at 20 minutes.

Let bread cool, then remove from pan. Voila, a tasty treat for breakfast, or just for snacking.

You can play with this recipe by adding nuts, raisins, or by swapping the zucchini with carrots.
cafela: (chocolate)
I made a chocolate cake for my father-in-law's birthday this past weekend. The recipe for the cake was basically me adding an extra tablespoon of oil and a couple ounces of melted chocolate to a devil's food cake mix. I usually bake from scratch, but there's nothing wrong with improving on a cake mix you know will work. Especially when you waited until 9pm to start said cake. But since I did take the easier route, I wanted to give this cake a special touch. I started by using 6-inch cake pans instead of 8 or 9 inch pans--this gives you a much taller (and cuter, I think) cake.

I love my 6-inch cake pans. You can either use 3 of the cake pans and have a very tall cake, or use 2 and pour off enough batter for a couple of cupcakes. I usually go the extra cupcake route, because it's a good way to test to make sure the cake turned out well, or to fend off those who might want to cut into the cake too soon.

Raspberries were on sale (probably for the last time this year) at the grocery store this past week, so I decided to dress the cake up with some well-placed raspberries. It's an easy way to make most any cake look a lot more impressive, and the raspberries lend a fresh sweetness to each slice. Here's the finished product:


cafela: (fried chicken)
I've been cooking for a long time, but up until a year ago, I had never attempted to roast a chicken. I thought it was a complicated thing to do, that would involve racks or somehow violating the chicken with a beer can. Then I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen that went through the process step-by-step, and it turned what I thought was a daunting task into something that now seems relatively easy.

The best thing about this approach is how easy it is, and how adaptable it is. If you don't have any other seasonings, you can use just salt and pepper and it will still taste good. And this particular recipe lends itself to a very simple gravy, the recipe for which I'll also include. The recipe itself is going to seem long, but it's just because I wanted to spell everything out for anyone else who, like me, had never roasted a chicken before encountering this recipe.

On a separate note, I apologize for the quality of some of these pictures. My nice camera is temporarily out of service due to a worn out shutter button, so I'm stuck with just my camera phone camera until I can get the other fixed.



Simple Lemon & Garlic Roast Chicken

Ingredients:

a whole chicken (about 4 lbs)

2 lemons, zested

6 garlic cloves

thyme (fresh or dried)

garlic salt

pepper

olive oil (or some other kind of fat--veggie oil or melted butter can work if that's all you have)

twine/string (you can get by without this if you don't have it)

A pot that can work on the stove and in the oven--a dutch oven is perfect, as is plain cast iron. If you don't have this, you'll just have to do a little more work in transferring the chicken



Start by prepping your lemons. Zest them, and set the zest aside. Next, slice one lemon into thin slices. Cut the other lemon into wedges. Now prep your garlic by peeling the dry bit off of two cloves and mincing them. Leave the other cloves alone. If you have fresh thyme, go ahead and chop it into smaller pieces.

Now, remove the chicken from the packaging. Pat it dry. Check the inside for the inner bits (liver, gizzard, etc.) that should be in a package inside the chicken, and pull that out if it's in there. I never use those parts, but some people like to fry those separately. Rub the chicken with a couple tablespoons of oil, then rub with garlic salt and pepper; I find that this is also a good time to add the thyme, and about half of the lemon zest. Don't be afraid to use your hands and get messy.

Then, add the rest of the seasoning--Put a couple of wedges of lemon inside the cavity of the chicken along with the minced garlic. Shove the lemon slices under the skin of the chicken--try to get about four per each side of the chicken; if you have more than 8 slices, that's fine. Tie the legs of the chicken together at this point; this will help keep the stuff you put inside from escaping by accident.

On the stove, heat a couple tablespoons of oil along with a bit of salt and pepper and the remaining zest. If you've got a pan that can go both on the stove and in the oven, use it, if not, you'll just have to use two pans. I put the whole chicken into the pan on the stove, breast side up. This is important, because the main reason for this step is to get the leg/thigh meat started cooking, since it takes longer than the breast does. Cook it on medium high for about 8 minutes. Then I put the pan in the oven at 450 for 30 minutes, adding the last 4 unpeeled garlic cloves then so they can roast with the chicken.

At 30 minutes, without opening the door, switch the oven off. Leave the chicken in the oven for another 30 minutes. I realize this sounds crazy, but it works perfectly every time, and keeps the breast from drying out.

After the 30 minutes are up, pull out the pan and set it back on the stove. With tongs, pick up the chicken and let the juices in the chicken drain into the pan. Set the chicken on a clean cuttiing board/plate to rest for 20 minutes. Pull the roast garlic from the pan and set aside. Squeeze a couple lemon wedges over the resting chicken. You can make the gravy while you wait for it to finish resting. Carve and serve!



Simple Chicken Gravy

Ingredients:

Drippings from roasted chicken

Roasted garlic cloves

1 shallot, minced

1/3 cup white wine (pinot grigio, chardonnay, or sauvignon blanc are good choices)

1/2 cup chicken broth

1/3 cup heavy cream (or 1/2 cup half n half)


Turn the heat on the stove to medium with the pan full of drippings/juices. Add the shallot to the pan. Take the roasted garlic you set aside and squeeze the garlic part back into the pan (if you've never roasted garlic before, the inside gets all mushy and delicious, and you just have to open the skin to squeeze it out). Stir to help incorporate the roasted garlic. When the shallots are soft, add the white wine and chicken broth. Once that cooks for a few minutes, add the heavy cream, and simmer until the gravy reaches your desired thickness. If you want a more elegant/smoother gravy, strain it. Either way, this gravy works very well with rice or biscuits as a side.

April 2014

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