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Pimento Cheese and All It’s Glory October 27, 2009

Filed under: Screen Doors and Sweet Tea — amynb2008 @ 5:02 pm
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pimento cheese and applesauce 003I was making lunch for my girls the other day.  I was cutting up an orange and was contemplating the perfectness of it.  It has a pretty sturdy outer peel to protect the juicy insides.  It is nice and round and quite portable.  Inside it’s all juicy and sweet and divided up into pieces just the right size for popping into your mouth.  Perfect.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that most of the world’s perfect food come from nature.  Oranges, apples, avocados, spices, and so much more.  All that we need for flavor and nutrition was given to us by God in a package most perfect to them.  Heck, this even applies to chocolate.

Amazing.

But then, I came to another realization.  While all of nature’s food is perfect…not all perfect food comes from nature.

Case in point?  Pimento Cheese.

Those Southerners among us will understand.

The only pimento cheese I’ve ever had is the kind that comes in a little glass jar that’s sold in the cheese section of the grocery store.  I have fond memories of spreading this out on Townhouse Crackers as an after school snack. pimento cheese and applesauce 010I never buy it any more because  I could probably eat the whole jar by myself in one sitting.   While I do really still like that stuff, I now understand that it’s not real pimento cheese.  Oh no.  Not even close.

I made Martha Hall Foose’s pimento cheese from her cookbook “Screen Doors and Sweet Tea”.  It’s made with mayo and lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce and cheese, which now that I look at that list doesn’t really seem like it would go together…but oh how it does.  A perfect food…creamy and tangy and cheesy.

I guess a girl can’t live on chocolate alone.

I am now so intrigued by pimento cheese that I have begun an investigation on what to do with pimento cheese.  There are oh so many applications.  Pimento cheese, how do I love thee?   Let me count the ways…

1. Spread on a cracker

2. Used in place of cheese in a grilled cheese sandwich

3.  Mixed with equal parts flour, rolled out and baked into cheese strawspimento cheese and applesauce 019

4. Stuffed into jalapeño peppers and baked or deep-fried into a popper

5. Rolled into a crescent roll and baked

6.  Used as a sandwich spread

7. Used on a burger

8. Used as a dip for chips or pretzels

9.  Added to a BLT

10. Stuffed in celery

11. Used as a veggie dip

12. Spread on a toasted English muffin or bagel

13. Used as the ham in a ham and cheese sandwich

14. Spread on a grilled chicken breast (hmmm….might be my lunch today!)

15.  Spread over toasted bread and them broiled until bubbly

16. Mix with cooked bacon and use to fill a  hallowed-out bread bowl, heat until bubbly, and eat with the bread from the inside of the bowl

17.  And…the most obvious…just eat it by itself off a spoon

So that’s what I came up with.  If anyone else has more ideas, please share.  I’d love to hear them.

If you don’t than you probably have never had pimento cheese before and you need to make this recipe.  Now.  Go on.  Enjoy.

Pimento Cheese

from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea by Martha Hall Foose

1 cup mayonnaise (the recipe suggests homemade)

1 teaspoon finely chopped sage (I didn’t add this.  I forgot.)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

8 ounces Colby cheese, grated (2 cups)

8 ounces sharp Cheddar cheese, grated (2 cups)

1 (4-ounce) jar chopped pimientos, drained

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Hot pepper sauce

In a medium bowl, combine mayonnaise, sage, lemon juice, mustard, cayenne, and Worcestershire sauce.

Add the two cheeses and pimientos, blending thoroughly to combine.  Season with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.

Refrigerate until ready to use.

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Homemade Applesauce October 26, 2009

Filed under: Fruit — amynb2008 @ 2:03 pm
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In the past when I have made applesauce, someone said to me, “I didn’t even know you could make homemade applesauce.”pimento cheese and applesauce 029

Sigh.

How did we get so far away from how our food is made?  How did there get to be so many steps between the farm and the table?

I suppose convenience plays a huge part.  I mean, who wants to spend a Sunday afternoon peeling and chopping apples and then listening to the sound of them bubbling gently on the stove and smell the sweet aroma as it fills the house when you can got buy it at a busy, crowded store in plastic, pre-portioned containers?

Picture this: me sitting at my computer, raising my hand.  Me.  I want to make applesauce and spend a Sunday afternoon peeling and chopping apples and listening to them bubbling gently on the stove and smell the sweet aroma as it fills my house.  Me.  That’s who.

Applesauce is shockingly easy to make.  You just peel some apples (although this step is considered optional by some), chop them up, and cook ’em a pot with a little bit of water and sugar (although some people think the sugar is also optional).  You let this cook until the apples are mushy and look like applesauce.  It doesn’t get much easier than that.

For my batch, I used a mixture of Empire and Jonagold.  T here are lot of good apples for cooking with so you can pick and choose what you like.  A mixture is always nice as you can get lots of different flavors in one batch.  The ones I used  is what happened to be available at the orchard when I was there.

Which brings me to another point I want to make about applesauce making.  Be sure to get your apples at an orchard.  They will be more fresh than from a grocery store and they often have utility apples for sale.  Utility apples are those that are bruised or misshapen or otherwise unattractive and probably wouldn’t sell for straight up eating.  They are still edible, of course, and perfect for making applesauce and much cheaper.

Here is how I made my applesauce and it was a big hit.  Ella even had some for dessert last night.  I guess she didn’t inherit my philosophy that fruit is fruit and chocolate is dessert.  No matter…this applesauce is delicious.  Dessert or not.

Amy’s Applesauce

1  peck of apples (I used 1/2 peck Empire and 1/2 peck Jonagold)

2 cups water

2/3 cups white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

Peel the apples.  Core and cut up to equal-sized pieces.

Put the apples into a big pot (mine was 7 1/4 quarts).  Add water and put over medium-high heat.  When apples starts to break down a bit and are easier to stir, add the sugars and mix in.  Let apples continue to simmer over medium-low heat until mushy and looks like applesauce, stirring occasionally.  Break-up big pieces with a potato masher.  Eat warm or cold.  Yum!

This makes a pretty big batch of applesauce.  I kept some out and froze the rest.  It can also be canned, but I’m not into canning so I can’t help you with that.

*Note:  You can also add spices like cinnamon and nutmeg to your applesauce when you add in the sugars.  I don’t like my applesauce spiced so I omit these.

 

A New Recipe: Mediterranean Chicken October 22, 2009

Filed under: Chicken,Dinner,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 1:25 am
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As you may remember, I have decided to choose at least one recipe from every cookbook that is on my bookshelf.  This time, I chose “The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.”  I’ve had this book for over 14  years.  IPlymouth Orchard 2009 and food 013 got it as a wedding present.  Or as a shower gift.  Or for something else but I definitely associate it with getting married.  In any case, I’ve had this cookbook for a really long time and I’ve never cooked a single thing out of it.  Which makes me wonder why I still have it.  Maybe it’s just a sentimental thing.  I have, from time to time, used it as a reference for making soft- or hardboiled eggs.  My husband uses the pancake recipe and refers to it from time to time when grilling but other than that, no real recipe has been made from this book.  So, this seemed like the perfect candidate for my next new recipe.

After, admittedly, a short peruse through the recipes I came across a recipe for Mediterranean Chicken.  It sounded similar to an arroz con pollo recipe that I have and love but much easier to make.  I figured I had found my recipe.

Making this chicken was easy.  It was a bit time consuming, but not really work.  When I was taking pictures of it, it didn’t seem to look real pretty but I certainly enjoyed the smell wafting up at me.  Unfortunately, that was about as good as it got for me.  While there was nothing particularly bad about this chicken, it didn’t wow me, or anyone in my family for that matter.  It was lackluster.  I typically only include recipes here when I really like them and normally this isn’t a recipe that would make the cut for me.  However, since I am using this as a record of all the new recipes I am trying I had to include it.  Besides, as my daughter Ella says, “It’s not my favorite, but it’s okay” so maybe despite my less than glowing review, someone will still want to give it a try and find that they like it more than I do.

It could happen.

Mediterranean Chicken

From Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook

1 1/2 pounds meaty chicken pieces (I used bone-in thighs)

2 tablespoons cooking oil

6 ounces bulk chorizo or Italian sausage (I used hot Italian sausage), cut into bite-sized pieces

2 medium onions cut into wedges

3 cloves of garlic

2 1/4 cup water

3/4 cup long grain rice

1 tablespoon instant chicken bouillon granules

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (I used a full teaspoon)

1/4 teaspoon pepper

10-ounce package of frozen peas, thawed

1 medium red or green bell pepper, cut into 1-inch squares (I used roasted red pepper)

8 cherry tomatoes, halved

1/3 cup sliced ripe olives

Rinse and dry chicken.  In a 4 1/2 quart Dutch oven heat oil.  Cook chicken in oil, uncovered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes or until lightly brown all over.  Remove chicken.

In the same pan cook sausage, onion, and garlic for 8-10 minutes or until sausage is no longer pink.  Remove from pan, drain grease and then return to pan.  Add water, rice, bouillon, oregano, and pepper.  Bring to a boil, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.  Return chicken to pan, on top of the rice.  Reduce heat.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes or until chicken is nearly done, turning chicken once.

Add peas and peppers to the chicken mixture.  Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes more or until chicken is completely done.  Gently stir in tomatoes and olives.

Makes 6 servings.

 

Biscuits and Beef Stew: A Classic Combination October 20, 2009

Pancakes, biscuits, and stew 036They are a classic combination.  At least to me.  They just go together.  I mean, you need the warm, flaky biscuit to sop up all the gravy leftover from the stew.  Of course, in my house you’re more likely to see a biscuit sopping up butter mixed with honey.  But that’s beside the point.

When fall hits and bathing suit season gives way to something less scary, all I want to do is hunker down and curl up with my favorite blanket and a good book or look out the window at the changing colors in the trees.  What better accompaniment could there be than stew?

When Erin or Prudence Pennywise (http://www.prudencepennywise.blogspot.com/) chose sweet potato biscuits for this week’s Tuesdays with Dorie, I thought what better time to have beef stew for dinner.

My recipe for beef stew was given to me by my mother-in-law.  It is my favorite kind of recipe — it is her recipe and now it is mine.  If it came from a cookbook, no one knows which one.  It the kind of recipe that the maker can truly claim.  My copy of the recipe is scribbled on the back of another recipe in my husband’s hand.   I love that.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy every time I make it.  Plus, this is really good stew.  It’s warm, rich, beefy and loaded with veggies — although not rutabaga which is my mother-in-law includes.

The biscuits were a great addition with the stew.  I was a bit worried that the sweetness of the sweet potatoes might not go well with it,Pancakes, biscuits, and stew 033 but I worried for nothing.  They weren’t overly sweet and even though I added the optional cinnamon and nutmeg, I didn’t really taste them.  I could smell them while it baked though — mmmmmm….

What I loved about these biscuits is that you can make them with canned sweet potatoes.  I’m not usually a fan of canned food but this makes the recipe accessible and easy.  The biscuits are soft and flaky with just a hint of sweet.  They were really good with our honey butter.  I was wondering what they might taste like made with pumpkin.  Then I wondered what they would taste like covered in chocolate gravy (see my other post).  If I had any leftover, I would have tried that.  Maybe next time.

You can find the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s sweet potato biscuit on Erin’s blog.  The recipe for beef stew is below.

Happy Fall!

Beef Stew

Like many recipes from the home cook, I have no real amounts here.  I just add what looks right to me.  You’ll have to do the same.

Oil

Seasoning salt and pepperPancakes, biscuits, and stew 034

Flour

Stew meat (or a roast, cut up), about a pound

Onions, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, chopped or minced

1 can Campbells’ Beef Broth

2-3 cans Swanson’s Beef Broth (yes, you need both kinds)

Carrots, chopped

Potatoes, chopped

Rutabage (if you must), chopped

Cornstarch

Peas

Corn

Heat a bit of oil in a large pot.  While it heats, season your beef with seasoning salt and pepper.  Then, dredge with flour.  Brown meat in the oil along with the onions and garlic.

Add in about half the can of Campbell’s broth.   Be sure to scrape up all the flavorful stuff off the bottom of the pan.  Let come boil until it gets thick.  Add in the rest of the broth (both kinds).  Reserve one can of the Swanson’s broth in case you need it later.

Let this gently simmer for an hour or two.

After at least an hour, add in the carrots, potatoes, and rutabaga (if you must).  Let this simmer for about an hour more, or until veggies are nice and tender.  If you think you want to thicken the broth, take out about a half of the broth now.  You can also use some of the leftover broth.  If you think that you need more broth, add that in now too.

When the carrots and potatoes are tender, add in peas and/or corn and let cook until heated through.  Add some cornstarch to your reserved broth and then add that back into the stew, if needed.  Let come to a boil and cook until desired thickness.

Serve with biscuits, of course.

 

Apple Praline Muffins October 18, 2009

Filed under: Muffins,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 12:20 am
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The culinary world is one traditionally dominated by men.  In most families, however, it is the women who take charge of nourishing their families.  Growing up, I guess I had the best of both worlds.  I have fond memories offood 040 both my grandma and my uncle cooking away in the kitchen.  My grandma never cooked with a recipe.  To this day, I still have no idea how she made her gingerbread and sadly, she is no longer around to ask.  My uncle, however, is still around and has passed on some recipes to me.  One such recipe is his apple praline bread.  I’m not sure where this recipe comes from but I know he adapted it from its original form.  When I went to make this, I made a few changes of my own.  For one, I decided to make it into muffins.  For another, I replaced the sour cream with plain yogurt.  I also played around with the amount of apples and pecans.  My uncle also cuts his apples into rather large pieces.  I wanted smaller pieces.  Partly because they needed to be smaller since they wouldn’t bake as long as a muffin and partly because I wanted them more evenly distributed within the muffin.

The result is a moist, if a bit dense (though not unpleasantly so), muffin.  Although there is definitely a difference in texture between the muffins and the apples, the apple all but disappeared in the muffin.  I don’t, however, find this a bad attribute.  On the contrary, it seems to work, although next time I will probably add more apple.  I topped each muffin with a sugar-coated pecan (I told you they’d turn up again!) but I think next time I will mix pecan pieces right in with the glaze.  I think this will give it a more praline taste to them.  As for the glaze itself, I used the same amounts for the bread but found I needed a bit more.  I will give the amounts I used, but I would add an extra half of the amounts if I were to make it again.  The glaze really makes the muffins — so no skimping!

I really liked this bread as a muffin.  They are a very pleasant treat.  Despite the apple they don’t have a particular fall feel to them, making them good year-around.  The yogurt gives it some nutrition and boosts it up to a snack you can feel pretty good about.  It was delicious with milk for breakfast.  I’m pretty sure they aren’t going to last around here much longer.

That’s okay though…there’s always another muffin to be baked.

Apple Praline Muffins

Makes 14

1 cup white sugar

1 cup plain yogurt (or sour cream)

2 eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups tart apple, peeled and chopped (I used granny smith and will probably use 2 cups next time)

1/2 cup chopped pecans

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons brown sugar

14 pecan halves (preferably sugar-coated)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly spray 14 muffin cups.

In a mixing bowl, beat together white sugar, yogurt, eggs, and vanilla on low until combined.  Turn the mixer up to medium and beat for 2 more minutes.  Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Stir this into  the yogurt mixture until just barely mixed.  Add in the apples and pecan pieces and gently stir in.

Divide batter among the 14 prepared muffin cups and bake for about 2o minutes.  When they are done, remove from oven and place on a cooling rack for 5-10 minutes.  After that, remove muffins from the cups and rest on the rack.

While the muffins continue to cool, melt the butter and brown sugar in a small sauce pan over low-medium heat until sugar is dissolved.  Turn up the heat and let come to a boil.  Boil for one minute.  After a minute, spoon the mixture over each muffin.  Top with a pecan half.

Alternately, you can add another 1/4-1/2 cup of pecans to the butter-brown sugar mixture before pouring over muffins.

If you’d like to make this in as one loaf, bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 minutes.

 

Sugared Pecans, Big News, and a Reminder October 12, 2009

Filed under: Snacks,Uncategorized — amynb2008 @ 8:33 pm

Apple Orchard 2009 095For a while now, I have been considering including different recipes other than baking ones here on The Fabulous Baker Girl.  The biggest reason for this is that it will enable me to post here more often.  As much as I love to bake, I just can’t do it every single day or all I’d ever eat is baked goods.  Now that I say it, that wouldn’t bother me in the least, but I think  my waistline might suffer.

Like it isn’t already.

I’ve come up with a great idea though.  Upon looking at my vast cookbook collection, I have decided to try at least one new recipe from each of my books each week.  Now if I used all of my books, it would take me about 10 years to finish so I decided to use only the books that are currently on my bookshelf and those I might get after this day.  That said, it will still take me two years to cook just one recipe from each of the 104 cookbooks on my shelf each week.

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, to get us started I chose a recipe from a cookbook I got over the weekend.  The book is called Recipes for Hope Cookbook, Tasty Recipes from our Home to Yours. All proceeds from the sales of this book will go to benefit breast cancer awareness and research at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute.   It is available at local (local to me, anyway) Kroger stores for $9.99.  If you happen by Kroger and see one, pick one up.  Pick up two and three and share with a friend!

I found several good sounding recipes to try, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one.  I decided to leave it to chance and made Howie pick a number between one and 133 (the number of pages in the book).  He chose 121.  I turned to page 121 and found recipes for homemade marshmallows and sugar-coated pecans.  Hmmm….still a tough choice.  Neither were exactly the type of recipe I had wanted to kick off this new project, but I was committed to whatever page Howie had given me.  And he gave me page 121…homemade marshmallows or sugar-coated pecans.  I decided on the sugar-coated pecans.

This is an incredibly simple recipe.  I mixed it all together in about three or four minutes (although is seemed longer since a small war was raging over whether or not we would soon be watching Yo Gabba Gabba or Maggie and the Ferocious Beast).  It does take an hour to bake but the actual work part is nothing.  The result is crispy, almost airy nuts that are sweet and lightly spiced.  These would make great holiday gifts or a nice addition to a holiday buffet.  You could even play around with the spices for another version.  I’m thinking chili and cumin…I definitely think these are worth the minimal effort!

By the way…keep your eyes open.  You may just see these treats resurface later in the week!

I promised you some big news so here it is.  The Fabulous Baker Girl will soon be moving!  I have gotten my own domain name and pretty soon you’ll be able to find me at http://www.thefabulousbakergirl.com.  I am so excited about this move and I hope you’ll visit me there often.  I’ll let you all know when the big  move will happen so keep watching!

And now for the reminder.  As I said earlier, it is Breast Cancer Awareness month so ladies…don’t forget to check yourself out!  And gentleman, be sure to remind the women you love.  If you are over 40, schedule a mammogram today. Breast cancer is best treated with early prevention.  So go on…prevent!

And go nuts…or at least eat some!

Sugar-Coated Pecans

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 pound pecan halves

1 cup white sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt (I forgot to add the salt and they are still yummy!)

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 250 degrees.  Grease a baking sheet.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white and water until frothy.  In another large bowl, mix together the sugar, salt, and cinnamon.

Add the pecans to the egg whites.  Stir to coat.  Remove the nuts and toss them in the sugar mixture until coated.  Spread the nuts out on the prepared baking sheet.  Bake for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.

 

TWD: Split Level Pudding October 6, 2009

I have to confess that I really haven’t been baking lately.  I don’t know if it’s a combination of being busy or lazy or if it’s because in an effort to lose a few pounds I’ve just been staying away.  Or maybe it’s because my pumpkin doughnuts were just so darn good I can’t top them.

Whatever the reason, I still had my Tuesdays with Dorie to do.  I missed lack week I was busy and didn’t really manage my time well.  Since I don’t want to get kicked out, I figured I”d better get baking.

The Bottom Level

The Bottom Level

As it turns out, this weeks recipe doesn’t need to be baked.  Garrett of Flavor of Vanilla (http://theflavorofvanilla.blogspot.com/) picked Split Level Pudding — a nice vanilla pudding on top of a layer of chocolate ganache.   Mmmmm…I think I can handle that.

I just finished making these puddings.  They are really quite fun but I do think that the vanilla pudding was a bit fussy to make.  First you have to blend the eggs and sugar and then add the hot milk and then put it all back on the stove to thicken and then back to the food processor to blend in the butter and vanilla.  It just seemed to me that there had to be an easier, less fussy way to do this.  As my head is in a bit of a fog right now, this was not the time for me to find out.  No experimenting for me — just the straight up recipe as written by Dorie.

I was a little worried about the pudding not being thick enough.  Actually…I am still worried, as I have yet to actually try this pudding.  I did taste it while it was warm (yum!) but it seemed a bit loose.  I am hoping that chilling it will firm it up a bit.  I’m really quite excited about trying this tonight.  I think that the hidden gem of ganache underneath will really complement the vanilla pudding.

I hope I can wait that long…

The Top Level

The Top Level

A little extra vanilla pudding I saved for the girls

A little extra vanilla pudding I saved for the girls