Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Garlic and Bean Enchiladas

There is so much to tell you about!  My birthday cake (cinnamon roll cheesecake, and it was as delicious as it sounds, thank you mommy), Thanksgiving, new pies and tarts, Thanksgiving, stuffing and stuffed mushrooms and, oh yeah, did I forget to mention THANKSGIVING HAPPENED LAST WEEK?  Which really is my only defense as to why it has taken me so long to get back on here.  It took me way too long to organize my photos from the baking, cooking, eating bonanza, let alone blog about it.  

Which totally explains why, instead of getting into the heart of the decadence and diving into pie recipes head first, I am giving you this.  Last night's dinner.  And consequently, today's (and tomorrow's and Friday's) lunch. Garlic and bean enchiladas smothered in salsa verde and less cheese than I personally prefer, but so it goes the week following Thanksgiving.  

I discovered this recipe the summer I lived in Rhode Island, back when I was the only one who knew how to cook and I would exchange homemade dinners for freshly made margaritas at least once a week.  While I haven't made it since that summer, I remember it being two things:  a small pain in the butt to make and quite tasty.  Being as I'm now older and wiser, I think I have managed to cut back on the first , and after lunch today I can confirm the second: still tasty!

The original recipe, safely pasted into my big green cookbook, calls for things like thinly slicing EIGHT cloves of garlic and pre-frying the corn tortillas in a good inch of oil.  All I can say to that is, get yourself one of these things and chop the damn garlic and there is no need to be deep frying anything.  As stated above, it's the week after Thanksgiving!  Not only will your stomach love you for laying off the leftover turkey and candied yams, but I'm pretty sure your thighs aren't going to complain about something not being deep fried.  Instead, poor a small amount of oil in a skillet and heat the tortillas a few seconds on each side, letting them blister.  And all of a sudden, you have a quick, healthy meal.  Healthy because salsa is good for you and we're going light on the cheese, remember??  (And if you sprinkle on a little more while no one is looking, I promise it'll be our little secret!)  Guten Appetit!

Garlic and Bean Enchiladas

I promise that these are not as garlicky as they sound.   Also, they can be made the night before, all the way up through smothering it in salsa and cheese.  Plus, if you grate the cheese the night before, they'll be in the oven in a minute flat!  Just cover the naked enchiladas and refrigerate them over night.

2 Tbsp. Canola oil, plus more for warm tortillas
8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
1/3 c. chicken broth
2 tsp. ground cumin
salt and pepper, to taste
10-12 corn tortillas
2 cups salsa verde
1 1/2 c. pepper jack cheese, shredded (about 1/2 a brick)

Preheat oven to 375.  Over medium heat, heat oil in sauce pan until hot.  Add garlic and cook, stirring the whole time until golden and fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add beans and chicken broth.  Season with cumin, salt and pepper to taste.  Continue cooking until soft, mashing beans to desired consistency, about 7-9 minutes.

In cast iron skillet, heat a small amount of oil.  One by one, warm tortillas a few seconds on each side until a little blistered.  Let drain on paper towels.

To make enchiladas, take one tortilla and fill with a few good spoonfuls of the garlic and bean mixture.  Roll up tightly and place in a greased 9-by-13 baking dish.  Fill tortillas until all the bean mixture is gone.  If making the night before, stop here.  If not, pour salsa over enchiladas until covered.  Sprinkled cheese over top.  Bake in 375 degree oven until cheese is melted and salsa is bubbling, about 20-22 minutes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

 I hope your Thanksgiving is full of family, friends, laughter and a whole lot of pie!!

  Happy Thanksgiving from my crazy family to yours.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Pumpkin Butter

I'm going to keep this short and sweet.  It is the week of Thanksgiving after all!!  There are pies to be made and pants to let out.  Turkeys to brine and wine to be drunk!  And I cannot wait!  Thanksgiving is, hands down, in my humble opinion, the absolute best holiday that ever was.  It is about being with family, making and then consuming gargantuan amounts of yummy food, and then finding some time before passing out on the couch for a nap or settling into a marathon game of Monopoly or Settlers of Catan, to think about all the things you are truly thankful for in your life.  There's just not a holiday out there that can top that.  

So, here is my offering for those few days after Thanksgiving when you are still overloaded with leftover turkey but feeling to fat to make anything really hearty, yet still craving something warm and homey because, goodness people, it's getting cold out there!  Pumpkin butter.  You can use that leftover pumpkin puree you had from all those pies and slather it over leftover biscuits or some crusty bread.  Stir it into some oatmeal for a warming breakfast.  Swirl some into Greek yogurt for a light dessert.  And enjoy it as your house fills up with the aroma of those cold weather spices.  And it may be a little early, but...  

Pumpkin Butter

Most of the time this takes the pumpkin is bubbling away on the stove, but don't go too far, you'll have to stir frequently.  The pumpkin is rather thick and sometimes steam gets trapped inside and pops pumpkin everywhere.  The more you stir the less mess you'll have to clean up afterwards!  Also, I was a little heavy handed with the spice, so expect a very spiced outcome or dial it back a little.  This exactly filled one Smuckers Strawberry Preserve jar perfectly.

1 1/2 c. pumpkin puree
1/3 c. apple juice
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground clove
9 Tbsp. brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
Lemon juice, to taste

Combine all ingredients, except for lemon juice, in large saucepan.  Stir together until thoroughly mixed.  Over medium high heat, bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer 30 to 40 minutes.  Stir very frequently and taste frequently.  Adjust spice to taste (remember, you can always add more, but you can't take it back if you add too much!!)  Near the end, stir in lemon juice to taste.

Cool mixture and transfer to an airtight container Keep refrigerated.  Spread on everything!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Crusty French Bread

There is something about baking bread that makes me feel so accomplished.  It's the smell of my apartment all afternoon as the dough rises and then bakes and in the technique of shaping the dough.  Part of it is also in the time commitment.  Sure, the majority of the time the dough is left alone to rise in a dark, draft free hiding place, but hey, I spent the whole afternoon baking and I, I made bread.  You know, the sustenance of life.

At least that is how it all plays out in my head, my getting praise and domestic goddess awards for no other reason really besides the fact that chemistry was awesome enough to work, just like it always works.  But if you're going to insist, I really have no issue taking all the credit.  I did find the perfect dough rising place, and that's worth something, right?

According to be November issue of Cooking Light, these round loaves of crunchy goodness are coined Crunchy French Boules.  I've been calling it crusty bread, until just minutes ago when I decided to be fancy and throw a French in there too.  For the most part, I followed the instructions as given in the magazine, including making a few days beforehand the "pâte fermentée".  This pre-fermenting step was easy enough to throw together on a Wednesday night and I am told added great complexity to my bread.  I can not vouch for this one way or another, but general consensus is that pâte fermentée is a good thing and makes homemade bread all the better, so I would suggest you follow suit as well.

Now, to the heart of the matter, cookbook worthiness.  I am not sure that this is the crusty bread to reign forever in my Big Green Cookbook.  It was good and tasty and all the things crusty bread is supposed to be, it just wasn't the crusty bread. It tasted yummy with cheese and soup and dipped in olive oil and balsamic vinegar with toasted garlic bits, it just wasn't the crusty bread.  So, it's on the bench for now.  It could very well be called in to play an inning or two, but it is second string at heart.  And the search is not over for my star crusty bread recipe.

Crusty French Bread
From November 2011's Issue of Cooking Light

pâte fermentée:
1 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, divided
1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. warm water (100-110 deg. F)

bread dough:
3/4 c. warm water (100-110 deg. F)
1 tsp. active dry yeast
2 2/3 c. all purpose flour
1 Tbsp. vital wheat gluten (photo above)
1 tsp. salt
Cornmeal, to sprinkle

To make pâte fermentée, lightly spoon 1 c. of flour into measuring cup and level off.  Combine with yeast and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  With mixer on low, slowly add warm water to flour mixture, beating until thoroughly combined.  Add additional flour, tablespoon by tablespoon until dough begins to pull away from the bowl.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for 2 minutes.  Turn dough into small bowl coated with cooking spray.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap that has been lightly spritzed with cooking spray.  Place in fridge for 24-72 hours, the longer it can sit the better.

Before baking bread, remove pâte fermentée from fridge and allow to come to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

To make dough, add warm water to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and sprinkle with yeast.  Let stand 5 minutes or so until water begins to bubble and foam.  Add room temperature pâte fermentée and let stand 10 minutes.  Add flour, vital wheat gluten and salt.  Beat on low speed until flour is just incorporated.  Increase mixer speed to medium and knead dough about 6 or 7 minutes, until dough forms a ball.  Turn out into a large bowl coated with cooking spray, lightly cover with plastic wrap lightly coated with cooking spray.  Let rise in a dry, warm, draft free hiding space about 1.5 hours, or until doubled in size.  (To check:  "gently press two fingers into dough.  If indentation remains, dough has risen enough")

Punch dough down and divide in half.  Knead each half for about 1 minute, slowly shaping it into a round bu pulling sides down, around and pinching under neath.  Dough should form a smooth, taunt surface.  Place dough on baking stone sprinkled with cornmeal.  Cover loosely with plastic wrap, sprayed lightly with cooking spray.  Return to warm, dry place and let rise  about 1 hour, 15 minutes, or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place oven-proof dish with 3 inches of water on the lowest rack in the oven.

Once dough has risen, take a sharp nice and cut a tic-tac-toe pattern into the top of each loaf with 4 cuts, 1/4 inch deep.  Spritz tops lightly with water.  Move to oven and bake at 450 for 10 minutes.  Remove water pan from oven.  Bake for 15 minutes more or until crust is golden brown and crusty deliciousness.  When tapped on the bottom, the bread should sound hollow.  Cool on wire rack.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glazed

One thing that I am not too terribly proud to admit is the fact that I do routinely listen to Delilah.  Hear me out.  I like the music more often than not and I do sometimes like laughing at some of Momma Bear Delilah's advice.  It's my night time, doing dishes, sprucing up my living room, reading cookbooks music.  But then something tragic happened yesterday evening.  I turned on my radio and do you know the first song I heard?  Sleigh Ride.  Sleigh Ride, people.  It's November 10th.  Peeps, it is 45 days till Christmas.

Can I just tell you how wrong it is that 7 weeks before Christmas, Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is coming across the radio waves?  It hasn't even snowed yet in Indiana (thank God), even thinking "Let It Snow" should be a crime punishable by the force feeding of mass amounts of turkey, mash potatoes and gravy.

All I am saying here is that Christmas music is really only enjoyable for so long and it's early November.  And every year, it seems as if the magic date when some people think Christmas music is acceptable creeps earlier and earlier.  If we continue at this rate, you will be burned out on Santa Baby before Thanksgiving even hits.  Is that what you want, Delilah?  There is no reason to rush towards the end of December when November is such a good month.  It has Thanksgiving, a grand holiday that does not deserve to be upstaged by Christmas.  It has chilly days when you just need a scarf and warm jacket and snow, thank God, is still a week or two off.  It has lazy Saturday mornings filled with the scent of pumpkin scones baking in your kitchen.  And, of course, it is my birthday month, which is just the spiced glaze on the pumpkin scone.  So, Delilah, I just want to let you know that November, in all of it's beautiful fall glory, does not need a soundtrack of Jingle Bell Rock.

So,  celebrate the great month of November and make these yummy pumpkin scones with spiced glazed and meanwhile I am going to rethink my Delilah allegiance.

Pumpkin Scones with Spiced Glaze
Inspired by Bourbonnatrix Bakes

Note:  These flash freeze beautifully.  I made a batch of 12 for Ben and myself last weekend and flash froze them Friday night.  I pulled out 4 Saturday morning and baked them fresh.  And just knowing that I have 8 left in the freezer, ready to bake up all lovely and delicious makes me very happy.  Also, I think the amount of flour is off.  To make the dough even manageable I had to add several hand-fulls of flour.  I adjusted the recipe somewhat, but because I wasn't measuring, I went on the conservative side.  If you find yourself adding lots more flour, don't stress it, because I was in the same boat.  And you'll end up with beautiful pumpkin scones, so it's a good boat to be in!

2 1/2- 3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. + 3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger
6 Tbsp. cold butter, cut into 1-inch cubes
1/2 c. pumpkin puree
3 Tbsp. half-and-half
1 large egg

Plain Glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. milk

Spiced Glaze:
1 c. powdered sugar
1 1/2 Tbsp. milk
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/4 tsp. ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Add butter and toss with a fork to coat with the flour mixture. Fit mixer with paddle attachment and mix on low speed until butter pieces are about the size of small peas and mixture is course like cornmeal. 

In medium bowl, combine remaining scone ingredients.  Whisk wet ingredients till smooth.  Mix wet and dry ingredients together, gradually adding more flour until dough forms a ball and is only slightly sticky to the touch.  Turn out onto very well floured surface.  Use lots of flour to prevent dough from sticking to everything, and form a 1-inch thick rectangle (~4 inches by 12 inches)   Slice dough into 3 equal segments, then cut each segment into 4 in an X pattern, to make 12 triangular scones.  (see picture above!)   Place on prepared baking sheet.  

Bake for 14-16 minutes, or until light brown. Place on wire rack to cool.

To make glazes:  whisk together powdered sugar, milk and spices (for spiced glaze).  Depending on your consistency, add more powder sugar or milk as necessary.  Be careful adding milk!  You need lots of powdered sugar for every small dash of milk.  For the spiced glaze, I honestly didn't really measure, since I only baked up 4 scones.  Just taste frequently and you should be good!

Drizzle cooled scones with plain glaze, followed by spiced glaze.  Let dry for 10-15 minutes before eating.  Enjoy!!

To flash freeze: freeze scones flat on baking sheet for several hours.  Afterwards, move to a Ziploc baggie and keep in freezer until ready to use.  Scones can go right from the freezer to the oven, just add a few minutes to the baking time!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Chipotle Dressing

I have always loved sweet potatoes.  The affair began when I was young, during every Thanksgiving when mom would make her candied yams.  While I'm sure six-year-old Liz only really loved the gooey marshmallow and toasted coconut topping, I now do love the mushy, bright orange underneath too.  I love them mushed, roasted, baked and made into fries.  And I do remember one pop-up video (remember pop up video?) that boasted that eating sweet potatoes increased your chance of having twins.  I've always wanted twins...

Anyways, when I lived in McAllen, I made another sweet potato salad about once a week for over a month.  That recipe, roasted sweet potatoes with black beans and chili dressing, came from a NYT article and has been safely pasted in my big green cookbook for awhile.  And now it is not as lonely on the page, as I wasted no time snipping this recipe out of my October issue of Cooking Light and into my cookbook.

And you know what is truly awesome?  And I really just realized it as I was looking up a link for the sweet potato and black bean salad.  They're both came from the same person.  No shit.  I wouldn't make something like that up.  Both recipes accompanied articles aimed at easing the transistion from lovely and bright summer salads to meaty, yet equally bright, fall salads.  Both written by Mark Bittman, the New York Times famed Minimalist columnist, and a man who obviously likes his sweet potato salads roasted and delicious.  And some how, even though they were published 2 years apart in 2 very different places, these recipes have ended up co-inhabiting the same page of my big green cookbook.  It's a little crazy, and a whole lot of awesome.  

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Chipotle Dressing
Adapted from October 2011 Cooking Light

2.5 lbs sweet potatoes
3 Tbsp. olive oil
Fresh ground pepper
3/4 c. fresh cranberries
1/4 c. water
2 tsp. honey
1 Tbsp. minced chipotle in adobo sauce
1/4 c. cashews, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Peel and chop sweet potatoes into 2-inch pieces.

On jelly roll plan, spread out sweet potatoes.  Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast in oven for 30 minutes, turning potatoes every 10 minutes.

While sweet potatoes are roasting, prepare dressing.  In small sauce pan over medium low heat, combine remaining tablespoon of olive oil, cranberries, water, honey and chipotle chilies.  Mix together and bring to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries pop. Remove from heat and stir until all cranberries have popped and sauce is right consistency.

In large bowl, combine roasted potatoes, chopped cashews, onions and cilantro.  Pour dressing over top and toss gently to coat.  Serve warm.

Note:  Mr. Bittman suggested toasted and chopped pumpkin seeds instead of cashews.  Since I was fresh out of those buggers, I decided to go with cashews over pecans or almonds.  I thought the saltiness would substitute well for pumpkin seeds.  I was a fan!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Spiced Pumpkin Loaf

Baking in Ben's apartment is both fun and frustrating.  Fun because I have someone in the kitchen with me, to talk and stir and crack the eggs.  Frustrating because things that I take for granted in my kitchen, like brown sugar, baking soda and vanilla extract, are never in his kitchen.  And I always forget that.  So making something spur of the moment never happens without a trip to our local Jewel Osco.

The other issue with baking and cooking at Ben's is the need to become a kitchen MacGyver.  I suppose this goes along with the taking things for granted bit.  For instance, to open my can of pumpkin puree, Ben tore at it with a church key until he was able to fatigue the lid enough that I could get a spatula instide.

(Look, Ma!  No cuts!)

I suppose this next one is my fault, I did bring whole nutmeg and no microplanar.  Time to bring the Parmesan grater into the game.

And I was going to MacGyver some vanilla extract by using french vanilla coffee creamer, but then I discovered it was actually hazelnut flavored and I admit it, I balked. 

Yet, despite all of this and despite the fact that after making a trip to the grocery store for vanilla and baking soda, and then forgetting to buy vanilla, followed by also forgetting to add the baking soda we had just bought to the batter, we still managed to make 2 decent pumpkin loafs.  Maybe a little dense, but we did forget baking soda, so the fact that they rose at all is pretty exciting in and of itself.  Ben's mom sent us the recipe and I'm not sure where she got it from.  We're not even sure if she had tried it or not yet.  Ben's grandpa and aunts were our guinea pigs, and they may have just been acting polite, but I got pretty good reviews (and the pumpkin bread did too, haha).  It's a good way to welcome fall, which if you haven't noticed has been knocking on your door for at least a week now.

Happy November!!

Spiced Pumpkin Loaf

1 cup butter, softened
3 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder     
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoons ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice
1 (16 ounce) can solid pack pumpkin

In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add eggs; mix well. Combine dry ingredients; stir into creamed mixture just until moistened. Stir in pumpkin. Pour into two greased 9-in. x 5-in. x 3-in. loaf pans. Sprinkle top with cinnamon sugar.  Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour or until bread tests done. I didn 't have 2 loaf pans so I poured the batter into a Bundt pan. I had to bake it at 350 for an hour and twenty minutes.

Ben's Mom's Note (Which I did not follow because, alas, Ben does not have wax paper or parchment paper....surprise, surprise):  I lined the greased pan with wax paper. Line the bottom and sides of loaf pan with wax paper. You want to leave about 4 inches of overhang on the 2 opposite sides. These serve as your handles to remove the bread from the pan in 1 piece, so make sure that there is enough of the overhang for you to have a solid grip.