Sunday, February 3, 2013

Bread and (Strawberry) Butter

Happy month of Valentine’s Day everybody! For some inexplicable reason, I am really looking forward to Valentine’s Day this year. I’ve never been attached to this holiday before, regardless of my relationship status. The excessive amount of repackaged chocolate and candy neither depressed nor thrilled me. My only guess is I suffer from post Christmas blues more than I care to admit. I still sing Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph to my little girl before bed. While at her request, I am not attempting to dissuade her lullaby selection.

Whatever the reason, I find myself in a bit of a Martha Stewart mode. I crafted a Valentine’s Day wreath for the door and this past weekend I made my first loaf of bread with my new KitchenAid (a Christmas present of course). Why bread? Because I got a chance to experiment with butter, my favorite food group. I made a lovely pink strawberry butter, perfect in color and flavor for the joy and silliness of the season.

Strawberry butter
yields 1 stick butter

1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 cup frozen strawberries

Defrost the strawberries. If you forget this step like I did, just heat the strawberries in the microwave in 10-second intervals until just soft. Using a food processor, bullet, or hand held mixer, pulse the strawberries until turn to liquid. Using a fork, whip the strawberry puree into the butter until fully mixed. If the butter does not seem soft enough to mix, heat in microwave but only for 10 seconds at a time. Do not let the butter melt.

Basic White Bread
yields 2 loaves
adapted from Instructions and Recipes for your KitchenAid Stand Mixer

1/2 cup milk
3 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter
2 packages active dry yeast
1½ cups warm water
6 cups all purpose flour
  1. Place milk, sugar, salt, and butter in a small saucepan. Heat over low heat until butter melts and sugar dissolves completely. Cool to lukewarm.
  2. Dissolve yeast in warm water in warmed Kitchen Aid mixer bowl (to warm bowl run bowl under warm water for 10 seconds and dry before using. Attach bowl and dough hook to Kitchen Aid. Turn to speed 2 and mix ingredients for about a minute.
  3. Continuing on speed 2, add remaining flour, one ½ cup at a time. Mix on speed 2 for about 4 to 5 minutes. The dough should cling to hook and the sides of the bowl should be clean. The dough should look smooth and elastic.
  4. Place dough in a greased bowl. Flip dough so all sides greased. Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from draft until doubled in bulk.
  5. Punch dough down and divide in half. Roll out each half of dough with a rolling pin onto a floured counter top into roughly rectangle shape. With hands, staring at a shorter end of the rectangle, roll each half up and fold exposed ends underneath roll. Place halves into 2 greased loaf pans, seam side down.
  6. Cover and let rise again in a warm place for another hour or until doubled in size.
  7. Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from pans immediately and let cool on wire racks.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Baby Swiss

Ahh the interim between two holidays, it’s a great time for imaginative cooking. When I say imaginative cooking, I actually mean dreaming up elaborate and creative menus for the next holiday which you may or more likely may never execute. Still, I love those hours spent in my head. Sitting on the couch in my pajamas, curled up with a cup of coffee and a cookbook, I believe I can make three quiches, a ham and a French toast casserole before people lead a revolt on Christmas morning to open presents. So if you need another recipe to add to your wish list and you haven’t reached holiday blog/pinterest overload yet, please keep reading.

This spinach wild rice casserole makes a great side dish to any winter holiday meal. A little more creative than your average mashed potato, this casserole still retains a comfort food quality thanks to the good stuff, aka butter and breadcrumbs. 

Wild Rice Gratin with Kale, Caramelized Onions and Baby Swiss
serves 10 to 12 as a side
adapted from the smitten kitchen cookbook

3 tbsp. butter. (cut into1 tbsp. cubes)
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
½ tsp. salt plus more for seasoning
black pepper
8 oz. stemmed and roughly chopped kale, about 4 cups
2 cubs grated Swiss cheese
¾ cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 cup dry fine breadcrumbs

1.     Cook the rice according to package directions
2.     Preheat oven to 375 degrees
3.     Heat 1 tbsp. butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add onions, sprinkle with ½ tsp. salt and a large pinch of pepper.  Cook until caramelized, about 30 minutes stirring frequently. Add kale and cook for another 5 minutes until wilted. In a large bowl, stir together wild rice, kale and 1 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper if needed.
4.     Use 1 tbsp. of butter to generously coat a 2-4 quart baking dish. Spread the rice, kale, cheese mixture into the baking dish. Evenly pour broth over the mixture, followed by the remaining cup of cheese. Toss breadcrumbs with remaining tbsp. butter. Sprinkle over cheese.
5.     Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown on the top.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

It has been a while, hasn’t it? According to this blog, September never happened. But you know, and I certainly know, it came to pass. This past month was filled to the brim with happy celebrations, including two very special ladies’ birthdays. My mom and my little girl share the exact same birthday day. It’s a little hard finding a cake to be enjoyed equally by a toddler and a crowd with a bit more of a sophisticated palate, but I found exactly what I needed in this strawberry cake with cream cheese frosting.

I know, I know, Strawberries in September? What about apples or pumpkins? But I just couldn’t resist serving a pink birthday cake. And since I used frozen strawberries, the recipe works in any season and maybe especially in winter when you’ll need a flavorful pick me up to remind you of summer fruits. This cake had a lovely delicate strawberry taste that was distinctly present without being overpowering. The last thing I wanted was a cake that tasted like a ring pop. The texture was also moist without being too dense. All in all, a perfectly ladylike cake. 

Strawberry Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes 3 eight inch round cakes
adapted from smittenkitchen 

For the cake
4 ½ cups cake flour
3 cups sugar
5 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoons slat
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups pureed frozen strawberries, about ¾ of a pound bag
8 egg whites
2/3 cup milk
3 to 4 drops red food dye

For the frosting
3 eight ounce packages of cream cheese softened
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
3 cups confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla

For the cake
1. Preheat oven to 350. Butter three eight inch round cake pans, line with parchment or wax paper, and butter the paper

2. Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large mixer bowl. Using an electric mixer on low speed, mix together for 30 seconds. Add the butter and strawberries. Increase to a medium speed and mix for 2 to 3 minutes until fluffy

3. In another large bowl, whisk together the egg white, milk, and red food dye. Add mixture to the batter in two or three additions, until completely incorporated. Dive batter equally into the three pans.

4. Bake the cakes for 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center.

5. When done, allow cakes to cool in pans 10 to 15 minutes. Then at least a hour before frosting. (I wrapped the cakes in plastic wrap and placed in the fridge before icing. This makes the cakes much easier to handle).

For the cream cheese frosting.
1. Blend together the cream cheese with butter and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add in the confection sugar and blend again until smooth. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

BBQ Mesquite Chicken Wings (low carb)

Can it be? Just around the corner waits the end of summer. Though to be honest, the back-to-school sale signs, which have been up since July, make the whole summer feel like the end of summer. Still the number of outdoor barbeques available to us is dwindling. Usually my favorite kind of grilling is minimal grilling. Recipes which allow the meat taste to shine through whether it be a burger or a steak. My exception to this rule, however, is the below recipe for BBQ Mesquite Chicken Wings. I achieve my desire for minimalist cooking since there are only three easy steps to the process while also getting a punch of delicious barbeque flavor. Perfect as a side for a big Labor Day gathering or as a main dish for a smaller gathering of friends trying to revel in the last of those warm summer nights.

BBQ Mesquite Chicken Wings
4-6 servings
About 1 gram of carb per serving. Less than 1% of your daily carb intake!

1 ½ pounds chicken wings (6 grams of carbohydrates)
¼ cup Olive Oil (0 grams)
2 teaspoons BBQ seasoning (0 grams)
2 teaspoons Mesquite Seasoning (0 grams)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh garlic (0 grams)

1. Combine olive oil, BBQ seasoning, Mesquite seasoning, and chopped fresh garlic in a large bowl. Mix well.

2. Add chicken wings to bowl. And stir until the wings are well coated. Cover and place in fridge allowing the wings to marinate for an hour or two.

3. Preheat grill so temperature is even and medium heat, about 350 degrees on a gas grill or when the coals are starting to gray for a coal grill. When ready place chicken wings directly on grill and cook 5-7 minutes on each side or until the wings are golden brown and no pink shows when cut. Discard leftover marinade.