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Friday, September 30, 2011

What's For Dinner?



After working all day, the dreaded question arrives...about the time you realize you have made no plans.  Too much homework to go out to eat...so the Mom stands in front of the open refrigerator, perusing the options.

Hmmm...a pound of ground pork - thawed yesterday - needs to be used.  1/4 pound of ground sirloin leftover from the previous night's dinner.  7 mushrooms that will begin shrinking within the next day or so...and a half of a white onion.  Oooookay.  What's in the cabinet?  Half a box of whole wheat pasta spirals and a jar of Bertolli pasta sauce.   Sounds like pasta and meatballs with a red sauce to me!

I got out a bowl, the aforementioned ingredients, tossed in the meats, chopped the onion, put half of the onion in with the meat, seasoned with some dried basil, salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder...threw in an egg and about 1/2 cup seasoned bread crumbs.  Shaped some little meatballs and fried them off in olive oil.  Done.


Drained that pan and used a bit of the leftover oil to saute the sliced mushrooms and remaining onion - added the pasta sauce, brought to a gentle simmer.

Tossed the cooked pasta and the meatballs into the sauce mixture and  let it get snuggly for about 3 minutes.  Served topped with grated Parmesan.

We looked happily at our bowl of goodness...all ready in under 40 minutes.  Near disaster averted. (I almost ALWAYS have a menu planned in advance - this week has been crazy and I didn't get it done)  I am happy when an unplanned meal comes together!


Bon Appetit, Y'all!StumbleUpon

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CHOCOLATE MACAROON CUPCAKES


I've been hankering for a chocolate cupcake or cake recipe with a coconut filling.  One that reminds me of the boxed cake my Mom used to make back in the 60's or 70's when Bundt pans sort of "came into fashion".  I read that a 2nd place winner in a 60's era Pillsbury Bake-off was a Bundt cake ...and thus the fashion began.  I remember my Mom making the chocolate one with a tunnel of coconut cake in the middle and a lovely vanilla glaze over the top.  I thought it was the height of "wowness" back in the day.  It tasted really wonderful!

I've browsed the online recipe catalogs without much success, and then when I was making the Marble Cheesecake a few weeks back, on the same page of "clipped recipes" from the Austin American-Statesman newspaper, I saw I had saved a recipe titled "Judith's Chocolate Macaroon Cupcakes".  I'd never made them but decided today would be the day.  I must have had this recipe since the 1980s or so...maybe even longer...although the newspaper wasn't quite as yellowed as the one from 1974 :-)

I just had the first "taster" cupcake, sans glaze...oh my goodness...that's a dang good cupcake!


I was worried because the recipe appears to be "low fat" - egg whites and applesauce - no butter - very little of the fat-laden yummies I usually include in my baked goods.  I did make two small changes...and they obviously turned out well.  I used whole eggs in the chocolate part of the cupcake and I used my own homemade Ricotta cheese...and it was not fat-free as called for in the recipe.  It was, however, made just with 2% milk instead of the usual cream and whole milk - so we'll call it low fat.

This does not taste like a cupcake where I skimped on the good stuff.  It is quite delicious.

Here's the way I did it:

CHOCOLATE MACAROON CUPCAKES

Filling:

1 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 egg white
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut (I wish I had chopped this a bit - I think it would have made the center a bit more cohesive)
1 teaspoon coconut extract

Cupcakes:

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated white sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Hershey's)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup applesauce (I used one of Mott's single serve 3.9 ounce containers)
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

18 cupcake liners
Non-stick vegetable spray

Glaze:

1 cup sifted confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons Half and Half (Just enough liquid to make a thick glaze)

Preliminaries:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Line muffin tins with 18 paper cupcake liners and lightly spray with non-stick vegetable spray.

Method:

Filling:  Combine ricotta cheese, egg white and sugar in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine.  Add coconut and coconut extract.  Stir to combine and set aside.


Cupcake Batter:  Combine flour, sugar, cocoa powder, and soda in the bowl of a stand mixer with paddle attachment.  On low, mix the dry goods gently.
In a small bowl or 2 cup mixing cup with spout (that's what I used), combine buttermilk, applesauce, 2 eggs, and vanilla extract.  Whisk to thoroughly combine.
Turn mixer on low and add wet goods in a thin stream into the flour mixture, beating on low until smooth.


Putting it Together:
Spoon batter into prepared liners - about 1/3 of the liner will be filled.  Top each with 1 tablespoon of filling.   Try not to touch the sides - keep the filling in the center of the cupcake batter.  I used a small cookie dough scoop that has a 1 tbsp volume. 

Spoon remaining batter mixture over filling. 

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes (25 was perfect for me) or until a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool in pan for 5-10 minutes and then remove to a rack for complete cooling.
Once cooled - mix the glaze and put in a pastry bag or a Ziploc bag, snipping the end, drizzle the cupcakes.

That part wasn't in her recipe.  I wanted the drizzle the way the memory was stored in my brain.

This is a great cupcake, even without the glaze, especially for those who don't want an overly sweet chocolate cake and enjoy a surprise inside.  With the glaze - it was almost exactly the way I remembered the Bundt cake!  YAY!

My next trial will be doubling this and making a Bundt cake ... I'll let you know how that works!  It's a really thin batter, so I'm thinking about maybe using another chocolate cake batter and using this filling.  It was just perfect for cupcakes though ...but, as I said above, I would have liked smaller pieces of coconut in the filling.  So, we'll see....

Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!



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Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Lovely Week-end

We made a heart together with our toes...isn't that sweet?

I know this will be shocking - but after Friday night's pizza, I didn't take a single photograph of food this week-end!  Oh, I cooked, but I have begun feeling the family irritation over delaying their meal while I take pictures...so I gave them a week-end off.  The Friday night pizza photos were snuck in while I was refilling plates :-)

We had gone over to the island Saturday afternoon and shopped a bit after Mr. Flip Flop got his hair cut.  Of all the stylists available to him in Austin, he has me get him an appointment with James whenever he is home and needs a trim.  James works at Virginia's across from the Light House in Port Isabel.  Both my man and my teen will only go to James!  So, after the shopping we were a bit tired (well, he was) so we stopped in at Pirate's Landing after crossing back to the mainland so he could get an espresso.  I had an excellent little Cappuccino also.  We then were tempted into adding cheesecake to the table - he had a caramel pecan fudgy thing and I had the Tuxedo cheesecake - a long time favorite.  We left sated and happy...I told him we needed to get back to the house because dinner was a 3 hour preparation!  Saturday night we had the teen-requested Braised Country Pork Ribs over Creamy Polenta made in a crockpot. (I wish I HAD taken photos - it was a much prettier presentation than my previous blog post for this recipe - as I've learned to tilt the pan so the fat drains down and I can get the reduced braised veggies spooned over the ribs and polenta without a pool of red grease...much prettier that way).  My husband had not been home the last couple of times I made it and he was very, very complimentary (thank you honey). Steamed broccoli on the side and some sliced toasted garlic bread I made with the leftover pizza dough from Friday night (I rolled it up and baked it off for a small French Loaf - dense, but very tasty).  We topped off dinner with slices of the still delicious Acorn Squash Streusel Cake.  I'd put it in the fridge several days ago to ensure it would keep until the hubs made it down to the coast - it keeps beautifully!  We waddled away from the table.  It's good that we skipped lunch (well, except for coffees and cheesecake) because dinner was very filling.

We caught up on all of the DVR'd season premiers and hit the hay later than normal...resulting in my sleeping until an almost-unheard-of 8:30 Sunday morning!  Daddy-o slept until 10:00 and the teen slept until 10:30!  Everyone was up sitting on the couch looking like zombies sipping our coffee when we all started laughing at each other.  That woke us up enough that I asked if they wanted "brunch" and they agreed they wanted omelets.  I fixed some really delicious veggie omelets with fresh mushrooms, beautifully ripe tomato, chopped green onion and a mix of sharp and mild cheddar cheeses.  An entire package of bacon got cooked (thinking I'd have leftovers for something else...but no), whole wheat toast with a 4-berry jam, and a big bowl of the most succulent sweet cantaloupe I bought a couple of days ago for a mere 78 cents.  We finished up around 12:15 and decided to leave the teen working on his homework and his laundry (yep, I'm the mean mom that makes the kid do his own laundry...he needs to know how!) and headed over to the island with cameras in hand.  We headed down to the North end of the island and parked at Access 4 to avoid the crowds...if you go down to 5 or 6 - lots of cars on the beach...South of Access 3 you start getting more week-end visitors...our selection was perfect for a nice long walk.  It was incredibly windy but the beach was mostly uninhabited, the water was gorgeous and blue (the Gulf usually looks kind of green or dark blue), and there were lots of little shells at the high tide line, as well as many birds.  Thanks to the Saturday beach-cleaning activity, it was quite clean and mainly free of trash (lots of horsey poop from a recent horseback ride on the beach - but we stepped carefully in that area!).  I admit I did not participate in the Saturday morning beach cleaning - I pick up trash every single time I visit the beach and I don't get to have my hubby home often...so I skipped out on the activity.  I appreciate the obvious work that was accomplished - the beaches looked great!

So, the hubby is headed back to work and I ate a bowl of Raisin Bran for dinner.  I'm tired (it was a really long walk) and need to sit down and read a good book.  Thank goodness the teen is self-sufficient in meal preparation, so long as the freezer and cabinets are full!!!

Here are a few of the photos I took today - no food photos - but it was some really nice scenery!

The waves at South Padre Island

Dunes with sea oats topping the crest

A bunch of little shells tossed together at the high tide line with the
tiniest edge of a wavelet trying to return them from whence they came!

My sister just arrived for some much-needed vacation time on the island...so I will be planning some treats to take over to her condo for her, and her guests...more to come on that over the next week or so!  Have a great upcoming week...and, as always...
Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

Friday Night Pizza - with WW and Flax Seed Crust



Friday night dinner in our house is pizza 95% of the time.  We are all trying to eat a bit healthier (not a lot - just paying a bit more attention to it) and I'm tweaking recipes where I can to get in more fiber and more natural and organic products.   This is a week-end where John is home so I decided to try to ramp up the pizza crust to something a bit more special than our regular offering.

I use the Martha Stewart Basic Pizza Dough recipe most of the time - sometimes I switch out AP flour for Whole Wheat.  This week, however, I purchased a package of Bob's Red Mill Ground Flax Seeds with the intention of adding a bit of fiber to a few recipes.  Our pizza turned out awesome!  I made a big batch of dough and then realized how visible the ground flax was, and I knew the teen would not eat it...so I made a quick recipe for him to use with just white whole wheat flour...and he never noticed the difference.

Here's how I tweaked the recipe...it was delicious! (BTW - you can half this easily)

WHOLE WHEAT WITH FLAX SEED PIZZA CRUST

Ingredients:

5 teaspoons Instant Yeast (that's two packets Active Dry Yeast if not using bulk instant)
1 1/2 cups hot tap water
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (plus more to oil the rising bowl)
3 1/2 cups up to 3 3/4 cups white whole wheat flour (it is true whole wheat - look for the WHITE whole wheat - I use King Arthur brand - I like that they only use wheat grown in the U.S. - closest to home is best when possible)
1/2 cup Bob's Red Mill ground flax seed
Extra flour for kneading
Cornmeal for pizza pan

Method:

Instant Yeast doesn't need to be proved - but I do it out of habit - so that's how I started.  If you use any other type of yeast, you would need to do this step.  Instant can actually be mixed into the flour and go forth.

Pour hot tap water into bowl of stand mixer with dough hook attached.
Add yeast and sugar, turn on the mixer for about five seconds to get things mixed together.
Turn it off and leave it for about 5 minutes until foamy and active.
Add olive oil, 3 1/2 cups of flour, and the ground flax seed. Turn the mixer on low speed to allow the dough to come together.  Once you see you won't have fly-away flour, turn up to medium and allow to run until the dough has completely pulled away from the sides of the bowl - allow the mixer to knead the dough for about 5 minutes.  If it doesn't come together, or stays too sticky, sprinkle in more flour until it does.

Oil a large bowl.  With oiled fingers remove the dough from the dough hook and place into prepared bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm, draft-free place to rise (I heat my oven for just 10 seconds while the dough is kneading, then turn it off and leave the door closed...that is a perfect place in my kitchen for dough to rise because I have an a/c vent that really blows in the kitchen).  Allow to rise until at least double in size.  I let mine rise for one hour and it was about 2 1/2 times the original size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit with a rack placed in the middle position of the oven.  Do that now so when you are finished prepping your pizza the oven is nice and hot.

Using lightly floured hands, punch down and then divide the dough in half.  Turn half of the dough out onto a floured surface (re-covering the second half so a film doesn't form on the dough) and roll it out to the shape you desire.  We like a fairly thin crust so I rolled it the length of a cookie sheet.  I carefully rolled it onto the rolling pin, dusting with flour anyplace that looked potentially sticky (from where it sat on the counter) and carefully transferred it to the cornmeal dusted baking sheet.

I pinched up the edges of the dough, just slightly, to ensure no overflow of the sauce.  This time I used a store-brand of pizza sauce - and we really like it - it's a dollar cheaper than the name brand and we don't see the difference.  I spread about 1/3 of a jar of sauce all over the crust - you don't want too much or your crust will get soggy.  You want to be able to see the dough through the sauce for the most part.

I chose fresh mushrooms (cleaned and sliced) thinly sliced red onion, kalamata olive halves, pepperoni, and crumbled bacon for our toppings tonight.  I first laid down a layer of thinly sliced provolone all over the pizza sauce, then arranged the toppings evenly over the provolone.  Lastly I layered a good amount of grated mozzarella, asiago, and Parmesan to almost cover the toppings.  Four cheeses - yum!

Baked for 10-12 minutes, gently lifting the crust to ensure it was just lightly browned on the bottom.  Allowed to rest for a minute or two before slicing.

We had a salad while it baked and that was probably a good thing - we would have easily eaten the entire very large pizza by ourselves if we hadn't pre-filled our tummies with some nice romaine lettuce based salad!

This was really, really delicious.  You could see the flecks of flax seed and the crust was a nice brownish color - but it just tasted like a hearty pizza crust - I couldn't feel the flax seed at all.  I was so happy knowing it was a healthier version of our usual Friday night fare.  The teen made a calzone with his and we all settled in front of the television and watched the DVR'd double hitter of Big Bang Theory's season premier.  We laughed so hard we cried.  The teen was whooping and hollering over the sarcasm and innuendos (yay, he got them!).  I can't say how happy the evening made me.  The family together, good food, hilarious laughing together.  It was awesome!


Bon Appetit, Y'all

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

OUTSIDE-IN BURGERS...on homemade buns!



Wednesday night's dinner plan was simply hamburgers because I'd been busy doing my "day job" most of the day.  Then I decided I'd make a batch of the homemade hamburger buns like I did last month (oh so freaking delicious and not too time consuming). 


THEN I decided to push the envelope a bit. (not a lot, we're not big envelope pushers around here)
The teen likes me to stuff his ground beef with chopped green onions before I make the burger patty and cook it... and while I was chopping the green onions and slicing some pickles I started thinking about stuffing the patties with some chopped up fried bacon and some cheese too. 

Sort of an outside-in or inside-out burger. 

Seasoned with some KC Masterpiece BBQ rub on one side and some season pepper on the other - yum, yum - easy to cook in a grill pan.

It turned out great!  (well, I did have cheese leakage from one patty...which burned on the bottom of the pan - but all-in-all really darn good)

Tonight was a casual dinner - burgers, deviled eggs, Fritos, and slices of apple...all made just a trifle more special with homemade yeasty burger buns and a different hamburger patty with goodies tucked inside.

Bon Appetit, Y'all!



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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

ZUMBA FOR SUSAN B. KOMEN in Port Isabel!

10/15/2011

The Party in Pink Zumbathon is coming!  Plan to be there to dance the morning away for this excellent charity.  I love Zumba at The Olympian Fitness in Port Isabel.  Love that they are undertaking this event to benefit Susan B. Komen for the Cure.  They expect several hundred participants...get your ticket now! 

The event will be held at Port Isabel Junior High School on October 15th.  It starts at 10:00 a.m. and finishes up at 12:30 p.m.

Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door.  75% of every ticket is donated to The Susan B. Komen for the Cure charity.

You may purchase online at:
The Olympian Fitness website! Or, stop by The Olympian Fitness on Maxan Street in Port Isabel for more information or to purchase your tickets there.

See you at the Zumbathon!

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Monday, September 19, 2011

ACORN SQUASH STREUSEL CAKE



Cleaning out my freezer and found another packet of last season's vacuum packed roasted acorn squash puree.  Thanks to my FoodSaver, it was in perfect condition.  I was so happy because when I went to the local grocery store last week they were completely out of canned pumpkin!  I'd seen so many great Fall recipes other bloggers (probably those living far North of me) were creating - and even though it is still very much Summer where I live, I wanted to make a pumpkin "something"!

Last October my friend brought me some acorn squash from her Fall wanderings in Wisconsin and I happily roasted, prepared, and packaged a great supply for my Winter baking needs.  I thought I'd used the last of it but when I completely took everything out of the freezer to give it a cleaning...viola!  There it was.  I did a small happy dance and put it down in the fridge to defrost.

I found a few cake recipes that looked interesting - and with a variety of substitutions and spice changes, I think this one looks darn yummy.  The base recipe I jumped from was found on Food.com and attributed to Aroostook back in 2002.  It was titled Pumpkin Streusel Bundt Cake.  I sure hope my many changes result in a fabulous cake perfect for this overcast day (the first overcast day in quite a while).  It's nearly 90 degrees outside...but inside, with the a/c blowing and the sun covered by clouds, I can pretend it is Fall!


ACORN SQUASH STREUSEL CAKE
by Debbi Hook

INGREDIENTS:


Streusel:

1/2 cup light brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 tsp fresh grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons butter - cut into pieces
(note - I wish I'd put a couple of tablespoons of flour in with it - I think it would have helped)

Cake:

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (wheat pastry flour)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 cup turbinado sugar (Sugar in the Raw)
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup butter - softened to room temperature
4 large eggs - room temperature
1 cup roasted, peeled and seeded, pureed acorn squash
   (puree the squash so that the fibers are cut up and it is smooth)
1 cup regular yogurt (not flavored - not low fat)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Glaze:

1 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1-2 tablespoons half and half (or milk) - more if needed to achieve glazing consistency

METHOD:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Prepare a 12 cup bundt pan (I used Baker's Joy spray - but you can grease and flour if preferred)
Prepare streusel mix in a separate bowl by combining brown sugar and spices. 

Cut in butter until crumbly. (I used two forks to do this)  Set aside for later.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and both sugars until fluffy (about 4-5 minutes)

In separate bowl, combine both flours, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and baking soda.  Set aside.

When butter and sugar is fluffy, add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition until incorporated.

Add yogurt, acorn squash puree, and vanilla to mixture in stand mixing bowl and beat slowly until well mixed (it will likely look curdled, but that's okay, when the flour is added, it will all smooth out). 
Adding the yogurt and squash and vanilla

Curdled - happens a lot when I use yogurt - but it turns out okay in the end!

It is very loose so don't turn it too high or you will slop it everywhere (words of experience).
Be sure to scrape down the bowl and make sure everything is mixed in.
Add the flour mixture all at once and turn mixer on low.  Beat just until the batter comes all together - about 2 minutes max.

Spoon half of the batter carefully into the prepared bundt pan.  Smooth the batter and run a spatula around the center of the batter, creating just a slight trough...it won't hold long, but it helps guide the streusel mixture.

Very carefully spoon the streusel mixture over the center of the batter.  Do not let it touch the sides of the pan.  I used a tablespoon measure and worked slowly but I still managed to get a bit on the side.  I very carefully used a fork to nudge it away from the sides.  If the streusel touches on the side it will caramelize and make the cake stick...so slow and easy works best. (again, voice of experience).

Gently top with remaining batter, making sure the batter seals and covers both sides of the streusel. 
Smooth the batter evenly in the pan once you are sure the streusel is covered.


Bake for 55-60 minutes.
Remove from oven and cool on a rack for 30 minutes.

Turn out onto wire rack to complete the cooling.

Yikes - I found that I must have not sealed the batter completely around the streusel because the now "top" of my cake was very buttery and sugary...obviously could see where steusel had leaked down into the bundt pan onto that which became the top of my cake.  Some of it stuck to the pan - and I very gently scooped it out and patted it into place.  When I tasted what I was scooping (hey, I had to give it a taste to make sure my cake wasn't under-cooked) it was very obviously deliciously caramelized streuselly buttery tasting.  Carefully move to serving plate (I use a cake lifter for that).

Drizzle with glaze after cake is completely cool.  Since the top of the cake isn't quite as pretty as desired, I made a thicker glaze to glamorize the appearance!  I put the glaze in a Ziploc bag, snipped the end and that allowed me to control the drape and flow of the glaze.  Turned out great!

I typed most of this while the cake was in the oven.  I wish you could smell how wonderful my house smells.  THAT's what I'm TALKIN' about!!!  Acorn squash is a great substitute for pumpkin in baking.  You might enjoy some of the other recipes I created using my gifted squash.  Thanks Karen, your gift has been put to wonderful use over the course of several months!

Previous Squash Posts:
Cinnamon Spice Cupcakes
Squash Chocolate Cheesecake
Squash Sugar Cookies

I love incorporating whole wheat flour, yogurt, turbinado sugar, and other interesting ingredients into older recipes.  I've been on a vanilla bean paste kick lately so I incorporated that into the glaze as well.  Sure is smelling good in here!!!

I ate the piece I photographed above.  It was outstanding.  The streusel wasn't very visible - especially as the cake is darker because of the whole wheat flour I used and the turbinado sugar...even though - you can taste the buttery streusel and it is truly delicious.  Incredibly moist.  Rich and spicy...in the Fall kind of way :-)  I loved it and the teen gave it a thumbs up too, following a taste of my piece.



Bon Appetit, Y'all!!!

Everyday Sisters Sharing Sunday #19

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