Thursday, February 2, 2012

Beer Dip

I'm not much of a football fan, but I do love gathering with friends for the Super Bowl. Now that I am no longer living in Husker Country, it is the only game party we attend all year.

The big draw (aside from the commercials, of course) is the food! My sister-in-law introduced us to this rich and creamy Beer Dip during a visit a couple of summers ago. Served with pretzels, it is the perfect game-day dish, and it is extremely easy to prepare. I use this recipe, substituting 1 tablespoon of Penzey's Buttermilk Ranch dressing mix for the packaged mix. This time I made it with an American Pale Ale from Full Sail Brewing Co. What's on your Super Bowl menu?

Monday, January 30, 2012

Look what came in the mail a couple of weeks ago! And today I am sitting down with a cup of tea to peruse it. I love Nigel's writing; one of my favorite cookbook reads of all time is The Kitchen Diaries. Happy Monday!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Banana-Chocolate Chip Muffins

One sunny Saturday in a long-ago September, a boy and a girl said, "I do," in front of 275 of their closest relatives and friends, who had journeyed to the middle of Nebraska from 16 different states and one foreign country to share this special day. The morning after dawned bright and beautiful, and to thank and enjoy the company of these wonderful people, the girl's parents hosted a brunch for 150 in their big, flowering backyard. (As you may have guessed, the mother and father were very kind and indulgent toward their only daughter.)

As it happened, the girl loved chocolate, and the boy loved banana bread. In a cookbook she'd received as a bridal shower gift, the girl found a recipe for Chocolate ChunkBanana Bread and made it to serve at the brunch. It was a great success. A modified version of this recipe follows.

BananaChocolate Chip Muffins
(adapted from All Time Favorite Recipes: Breakfast & Brunch)
2 eggs
3 med. ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 c. canola oil
1/4 c. milk
2 c. whitewhole wheat flour or all-purpose flour
1 c. sugar
1 t. cream of tartar
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2/3 c. mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease or line a 12-cup muffin tin. In a large bowl with a wooden spoon, mix eggs, mashed bananas, oil and milk. Add flour, sugar, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Using a 1/4-cup measure, scoop batter into muffin tin. Bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the muffins comes out clean. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Note: You can omit the cream of tartar and baking soda and use 2 teaspoons of baking powder instead.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Farro Risotto with Bacon and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Risotto is my stress-relieving kitchen production. I find standing at the stove, marrying the ingredients, watching the grains transform, to be relaxing. I don't even mind the stirring. In fact, the stirring is, perhaps, the entire point. Half an hour to myself, with nothing more difficult at hand than adding warm, savory broth to glistening grains. (At least, that's the ideal; the children often have other ideas.)

I created this flavorful dish one night this past autumn. Farro, also called Emmer wheat, makes a hearty risotto, perfect for a rainy day or snowy evening. It cooks up to a nice chewiness reminiscent of al dente rice. I buy farro in bulk from Whole Foods or in packages from a local Italian grocery store.

I like to use turkey broth (or homemade stock when we have it) in dishes that have ham or bacon as the sole meat, such as this risotto or bean soup. We rarely have ham stock on hand, and I've found the flavor of the turkey broth is not as strong as that of chicken broth and marries much better with the smoked pork.

Farro Risotto with Bacon and Roasted Brussels Sprouts
3 lobes shallot, diced
4 cloves garlic, diced
4 slices bacon, chopped
4 c. turkey stock or broth
2 c. water 

1 lb. Brussels sprouts, washed, trimmed and quartered
Olive oil
Freshly cracked black pepper

1/2 T. olive oil
1 c. farro
1/2 c. dry white wine (I like to use a Sauvignon Blanc.)

In a Dutch oven or large saucier pan over medium-low heat, saute shallot, garlic and bacon. Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a saucepan over low heat, combine the turkey stock and water and heat through. Keep warm.

In an oven-safe casserole dish or roasting pan, toss Brussels sprouts with a bit of olive oil and pepper. Roast for 12 minutes.

Add 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and the farro to the bacon mixture. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the white wine and stir. When the wine has been absorbed, add 1/2 cup of the warm stock to the pan. Stir frequently, adding another 1/2 cup liquid when the first has been absorbed. Continue in this manner until all of the stock has been absorbed by the farro. Stir in the Brussels sprouts, heating through if necessary, and serve.

Copyright 2012

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins

When Miss C's class was reviewing letter sounds at the beginning of the school year, we made banana bread for B day. Some time later, we made these Pineapple Upside-Down Muffins from Eating Well for the second (or third?) time U came up for review. And that was the sum of our alphabet-inspired cooking.

Rather than the dessert-like muffins you might be expecting, these make a very filling breakfast featuring pineapple, carrot and raisins, with oats and whole wheat for good measure. We are trying to reduce the amount of white flour we eat, so I used white whole-wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. And about those raisins: I had never heard of "baking raisins" before reading this recipe; I used the substitution recommended in the recipe's note section. For presentation's sake, we made these in a jumbo muffin pan; a whole pineapple ring fits in the bottom of each well.

We baked these in the evening; fresh from the oven, we found the taste of raisins overpowered the other ingredients. We enjoyed them much more the next morning, when the flavors had had a chance to meld.