Posts tagged ‘sugar’

October 5, 2013

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

Living in Houston I’ve learned that Texans LOVE spicy, hot food.  They serve everything with a side of Tabasco or hot salsa that makes your forehead sweat, and it’s already hot enough without the spicy food.  Eggs, steak, salads, burgers… everything is bursting with heat.  I spent my first few months in Houston downing gallons of milk every time I attempted to conquer the red salsa at our local Mexican restaurant.  Sadly, I never succeeded.  But in an effort to enbrace my new home I’ve tried to incorporate some spice into my classic recipes to satisfy my friends cravings.

Grains of Paradise and Cayenne Oatmeal Cookies

The thing I like about these cookies is that they don’t immediately smack you in the face with heat, it gradually hits at the end and lingers ever so slightly.  I didn’t want to mess with a classic too much, but I do think this takes a traditional oatmeal cookie to a more grown up level.  The cranberries add to the chewy texture of the oats and give it an added sweetness needed with the earthy spices. I purposely left out cinnamon, usually a staple in oatmeal cookies, as I didn’t want it to mask the other spices. 

The secret ingredient in these cookies is grains of paradise, a spice native to West Africa. I crushed the grains with my mortar and pestle which released the most heavenly aroma — a combination of black pepper, cardamom, coriander and citrus with a lingering scent of something floral and woodsy.  If you crack one between your teeth, the flavor follows in much the same order as the aroma.  If you only get one thing from this recipe I hope it’s an introduction to this wonderful spice.  The floral, peppery flavor is going to make a wonderful addition to just about all your favorite foods.  Your grilled steaks, fish, vegetables and potatoes will thank you.

If you’re looking for something a little more special, pop two cookies in the oven at 350 for a few minutes and add a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you have a perfect ice cream sandwich. 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper (more if you are adventurous)
  • 1 tsp. grains of paradise
  • 1 tsp.  baking soda
  • 1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped and toasted
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F
  2. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. This helps the cookies crisp by being closer to the heat source or at the very top where the heat accumulates.
  3. Place nuts in a small pan and toast on medium heat for 5-7 minutes.  As soon as they become fragrant take them off the heat and space them on the side to cool.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cayenne, grains of paradise and salt thoroughly and set aside.
  5. In a large bowl, beat butter, white and brown sugar, and vanilla until the mixture changes color and becomes a smooth, pale white… this is what you want so you have light, fluffy cookies.
  6. Slowly add the flour mixture and continue to stir with a wooden spoon until well incorporated.
  7. Add oats, pecans and cranberries and stir until mixed well.
  8. Scoop dough on to ungreased cookie sheets, I use a mini ice cream scoop to make it easier.  I also spray the spoon with pam so the dough doesn’t stick.
  9. Bake for 8-10 more minutes until the cookies are golden brown
  10. Let the cookies cool on pan for 1 minute before placing on wire rack.
  11. Enjoy!

 

October 10, 2012

Black Pepper Cranberry-Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

I have an influx of oatmeal in my pantry…  every time I go to the store I seem to think I’m out so I buy more.  And of course when I get home I realize I have pounds of it!  (I’ve had the same experience with foil and butter…. )  So I needed to find some ways to get through it apart from my morning breakfast.

Black pepper oatmeal cookies with cranberries and walnuts

Thankfully, oatmeal can be used for a variety of healthy and tasty treats… granola and cookies being two of my favorites.  The change of seasons also makes me warm up to those heartier breakfasts and the cold harsh winter in Houston.  OK, harsh is probably overdoing it but we did get snow my first winter in Houston!  After a few not-so-subtle hints from my husband I finally had a free evening to bake up some goodies.

Home-baked cookies seem to be the perfect vehicle for little warm nuggets of heavenly pecan, walnut and macadamia.  It’s the perfect amount of crunch to balance the chewy exterior, and helps level out the sugary sweetness of plain cookies.  These are buttery, chewy and indulgent, and the hints of black pepper and nutmeg give this traditional recipe an interesting twist.  The tart cranberries contrast well with the black pepper and allow both flavors to spark while not overpowering one another.  You’ll friends will know they’re different, but they won’t know why…

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter, melted (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 cups traditional Quaker Oats (not quick cook)
  • 1/2 cup toasted chopped walnuts (or your favorite nut)
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries

Method

  1. Remove butter from fridge and let warm to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
  3. Place chopped pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for 8-10 mins.  When you kitchen smells like heaven they’re ready.
  4. Remove from oven and let cool on the side.
  5. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Your cookies turn out so much better with parchment paper. I don’t know why but it works and then there is less to clean up!
  6. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and black pepper; set aside.
  7. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until it becomes a light cream color and fluffy in texture.  The color should significantly change from when you start, so just turn up that mixer and let it go!
  8. Beat in the vanilla, egg, and egg yolk for 2-3 minutes until light and creamy.
  9. Mix in the flour mixture until just blended.
  10. Add the oats, walnuts and cranberries and mix with a wooden spoon. Mix until just blended.
  11. Use a tablespoon and scoop out small balls of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 13-15 minutes. Do not over bake. The edges should turn very light brown, which is sometimes hard to see in the oven light, so I think I over baked these the first few times I made them.  The centers should still be slightly soft.
  12. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a couple of minutes before transferring to a cooling rack (I usually try to eat one right off the tray and always burn myself… but it’s so worth it!
  13. Repeat and enjoy!
January 23, 2012

Home Style Cornbread

There’s one thing that goes perfectly with BBQ ribs, chili or stew… golden, buttery, right-out-of-the-oven cornbread.  And there’s one thing that will take your ordinary cornbread from delicious to spectacular.  A cast iron skillet.  The traditional southern technique ensures you’ll enjoy melt in your mouth, deliciously crisp edges and pillowy centers of sweet goodness.

I like a slightly sweet, buttery cornbread with a moist center.  I also like to add a can of corn which result in chewy kernels dotted throughout the bread.  The biggest secret to good cornbread is don’t over mix.  It’s our natural impulse to mix things til their silky smooth.  This is exactly what you want when you’re making Hollandaise sauce, whipped cream, or icing sugar; but bread batter is delicate.  Save those arm muscles for when you’ll really need it, and for this recipe mix just enough to moisten the batter.  I always serve this with my homemade chili as a perfect vehicle to mop up all the extra juices, and I usually don’t have much to save for the next day.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cup medium ground cornmeal
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (with a small tab on reserve)
  • 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F
  2. In a large bowl mix together dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt and baking powder.
  3. In a separate bowl mix together wet ingredients: can of corn, eggs, milk, butter and olive oil.  Reserve a small tab of butter to heat in skillet and create a nice crust on the bottom.
  4. Slowly add in the wet ingredients to the larger bowl and mix gently.  Do not over mix the batter, just mix enough to combine ingredients.  Don’t worry about a few lumps, if you over mix your cornbread will come out dense.  You want fluffy cornbread!
  5. Heat a heavy bottom iron skillet on high and add a tsp of oil and a tab of butter.
  6. When the skillet is hot, pour in the batter.  It should sizzle in the pan, which will ensure crispy edges and utter happiness.
  7. Let it cook for a minute, then put it in the oven to bake
  8. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
  9. Cut into wedges, squares or sticks and serve with chili or softened butter.

Adjust the amount of sugar depending on your taste.  I like it more on the sweeter side but most of my family likes it a little more savory.  I usually win, as I’m the one making it!  ENJOY and happy cooking!

January 22, 2012

Texas Chili

When I started dating my boyfriend, born and raised in El Paso Texas, there was one point in our relationship when it was almost over.  It was a chilly California evening, and I was preparing dinner while he opened the latest Netflix (which we have cancelled due to their price increase – bastards!).  Beer in hand, I started to serve up my warm chili, excited as ever to dig in.  This is when the evening turned… I had made the ultimate Texas blunder.  A mistake that could not be rectified… I had put BEANS, yes, I said it, BEANS in the chili!  WHAT?!?  I was then lectured on the fine making of chili and the short list of ingredients that qualify to be a part of this dish (beans was not one of them).  Needless to say, he ate it.

I learned my lesson, and have over the years perfected my bean-less chili with just the right amount of heat and spice.  I’ve experimented with many combinations of chiles, most of which were new to me after moving to Houston, and have been delighted by the variety of flavors I can unearth.  This chili develops a hidden smoky flavor, not like barbecue, but a delicate heat with warmth and spice from Anaheim chilies, cayenne and a touch of jalapeño.  The subtle sweet tomato and flavorful tender meat warms you from the inside out.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs ground beef (80/20 or 85/15)
  • 1 tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  • I yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 3 jalapeño, finely diced with seeds removed (leave the seeds in if you like it hot)
  • 2 Anaheim chilies, finely diced with seeds removed
  • 3 tsp. chili powder
  • 2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 3 tsp. cumin
  • 3 tsp. paprika
  • 1 tsp. jalapeño powder
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 1 can diced tomatoes with green chile and garlic
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper paste
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. semolina flour (for thickening)
  • 1 tbsp. granulated sugar
  • Grated cheddar cheese (topping)
  • Sour cream (topping)
  • Onions (topping)

Method

  1. Heat a large, heavy bottom pan on the stove on medium with a tbsp. light extra virgin olive oil
  2. When the pan it hot, add in diced onion and cook on medium for 5 mins
  3. Add garlic, jalapeño and Anaheim chilies and cook additional 5 mins until onions are translucent
  4. Add in ground beef and brown meat, use a wooden spoon to break it up into small pieces and turn occasionally until brown on all sides.  The meat will continue to break up as you cook it but this helps it along.
  5. Brown meat, then add chili powder, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, jalapeño powder, cayenne, salt and pepper and stir to coat the meat evenly
  6. Add cans of tomatoes, tomato paste, red pepper paste and water and stir
  7. Bring the chili to a low boil and reduce heat, cover and simmer for 45 minutes
  8. Add sugar and flour and stir.  Cover again and simmer for another 30-40 minutes
  9. Taste and see if you need to add more salt/pepper.  Be light-handed, you can always add more, you can never take it out. (TIP: you happen to add too much salt, the one thing that might help save your dish is to add some sugar.  It helps to mellow it out and remove some of the acidic flavor)
  10. Top with cheddar cheese, onions and sour cream and serve in a large warm bowl

 

November 18, 2011

Homemade Waffles with Nutmeg Whipped Cream

All it takes is a rush of cold air after a potent October cold front, on the heels of blustery northerly winds, to quickly change the weather in Texas.   Add in clear skies overnight allowing the heat to escape into space and voilà, very cold morning temperatures will be there to wake you.  In preparation for these cold blasts, I have something to warm your mornings, and leave you setting your alarm clock a few minutes early.

Adult waffles.  That’s right, not your usual Eggo mini waffles, but grown up, spruced up, adult waffles.  You still feel like a kid when you eat them, but with the touch of a few ingredients they transform into something decadent.  I love the slight crisp of the outside paired with the warm, fluffy center.  You can put almost anything on a waffle and it makes it better… berries, cream, butter, sugar, and syrup, even CHICKEN!  Ok, I didn’t grow up in the South and this dish totally confuses me, but I know it’s a favorite for some of you.  This recipe is in honor of my boyfriend who calls on these fluffy treats every Sunday morning.  And don’t worry, if you decide to go with Bisquick I won’t tell, I tend to go that route on busy weekends, and save these for special occasions.   P.S. You’ll be amazed what a little almond extract will do to your waffles, I promise it’s worth a try.

Ingredients

Waffle batter

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups buttermilk (can also use milk if you don’t want to make a special trip)
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp. real vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp. almond extract
  • Vegetable spray for waffle iron
  • Butter for topping

Whipped cream

  • 1 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp. confectioners sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg

Method

  • Whip cold heavy whipping cream, confectioners sugar and nutmeg in a metal bowl.  Make sure the cream is super cold; warm cream is much harder to whip.
  • With an electric hand mixer beat cream (you can use a hand whisk; it just will take longer). Start slowly; if you set it on high at first, you’ll have cream all over the place. Set the mixer so it goes as fast as possible without splashing.
  • As the cream thickens, turn the speed up. As it begins to foam, start checking for a soft peak, which is what you want. The peak should bend over at the top when you remove the whisk. As it gets close, slow down, because if it goes too far, it will clump and separate (essentially become butter)
  • When finished, place Saran wrap over bowl and place in cold fridge (good luck, it’s always a game trying to get everything to fit, and inevitable the milk or orange juice has to come out.
  • Preheat your waffle iron
  • In a large mixing bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda
  • In a separate bowl, mix eggs, almond extract, vanilla, buttermilk and oil, then and add to the dry ingredients.
  • Let stand for 3-5 mins so batter thickens
  • Spray iron with oil
  • Spoon out about 1/2 cup of batter into hot iron (more or less depending on your waffle iron)
  • Remove from iron when ready-light turns on and top with whipping cream, a small knob of butter and a dusting of powdered sugar

You’ll be waking up earlier and earlier for these!  Add toppings and fillings to make them your own.  I usually add mini chocolate chips to my boyfriends waffle and then he carefully pours pure Vermont maple syrup into the cracks.  I like mine plain with whipped cream, but the best thing about waffles is the flavor combinations are endless.

October 17, 2011

Walnut Banana Bread

I’m not one to go for the fat-free, low-carb, no flavor recipes.  I like everything in moderation and this is a good recipe for those who want to meet in the middle, a little bit on indulgence without all the guilt.  This recipe usually calls for a stick of butter, but I decided to substitute in some other ingredients to give it the same moist consistency you’re looking for in traditional banana bread.  I’ve made more banana bread than I like to think about trying to perfect this combination, and I’ve finally found one that’s a winner.

I’m not a huge fan of bananas, but there’s something about the smell of warm nuts and toasty bread in the oven that warms my heart and has me waiting by the oven to dig in.  Spread a thin layer of honey or jam on top and settle in for some much-needed deliciousness.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2-3 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F
  • Line a baking sheet with foil and lay out the chopped walnuts
  • When oven is ready, toast the nuts for 10 mins.  Remove and set aside to cool.
  • Lightly grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan.
  • In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
  • In a separate bowl, mix melted butter, yogurt, applesauce and mashed bananas, and vanilla.  Then add 2 eggs and mix until well blended with a whisk.
  • Gently stir banana mixture into flour mixture; do this quickly and only until the mixture is moist, if you over mix you will end up with rock hard banana bread.
  • Take the nuts you set aside and lightly dust with flour (this will help them float in the bread and not sink to the bottom)
  • Stir in nuts and pour batter into prepared loaf pan
  • Bake for 50~60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean.
  • Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

This bread lasts for about a week if you keep it in a Ziploc bag in the fridge.  I like to toast the slices after the first day and spread honey and butter on the top.  It’s also been known to be a good companion to your cup of coffee on those early Monday mornings.

October 8, 2011

British Bread and Butter Pudding

I’ve tried many bread and butter puddings in fancy restaurants, but I always go back to the simple homemade version I learned from my mom.  It doesn’t have fancy ingredients, or liquor, or vanilla spice, it’s just traditional pudding just like Nanny used to make.

I love the smell of the warm custard baking in the oven; it makes the whole house smell like home.  When it’s ready to take out, the crispy brown coating on the top makes me giddy, and as I spoon it out the warm steam escaping from the pudding is intoxicating.  The raisins plump up in the oven and get nice and juicy and sweet, while the bread is soft and creamy.  I like the slight crust on the top from the sugar; it’s a nice change of texture from the soft, velvety filling.

Ingredients

  • 1 loaf day old bread
  • 2 cups whole milk (don’t use 2%, 1% or skim)
  • 1 3/4 cup light or heavy whipping cream (I’ve used both and I can’t tell any difference)
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/8 cup sugar plus 2 tbsp. for sprinkling
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 stick salted butter

Method

  • Preheat oven to 350°F, and place rack in center of oven
  • Combine milk and whipping cream in large saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk eggs and 1/8 cup sugar in large bowl.
  • Once the milk starts to foam, remove from heat.  Gradually whisk hot milk mixture into egg mixture, to create a custard.  Add the hot milk slowly while whisking so the eggs don’t scramble, it’s called “tempering” the eggs. Set custard aside.
  • Butter a 9x9x2-inch glass-baking dish
  • Spread a thin layer of butter on both sides of each bread slice
  • Line the bottom of the baking dish with a single layer of bread.  Feel free to break up the slices or cut them to make to make it fit.  You don’t want them overlapping.
  • Sprinkle with raisins and a dusting of sugar.
  • Continue to layer bread, raisins and sugar until you fill the dish.  I don’t put a layer of raisins on the top, as they tend to dry out in the oven.  I only put a sprinkling of sugar and use all the raisins in the pudding.  Don’t worry about filing the dish, the custard will fit!
  • Slowly spoon out the custard over the bread and let it set in as you go.  Make sure you do this gradually, so the custard has time to sink in.  You should be able to use most of the custard; you may be left with about 1/4 cup, nothing to worry about.  Just fill it to the very top.
  • Let stand until some custard is absorbed, about 2 minutes.
  • Place in over and bake pudding until custard thickens and begins to set, about 20 minutes.
  • Preheat broiler. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons sugar over pudding. Broil until sugar browns, rotating baking dish for even browning and watching closely, about 2 minutes.
  • Let pudding cool slightly. Serve warm with a dollop of vanilla ice cream!

October 2, 2011

Spaghetti with Italian Sausage and Creamy Tomato Sauce

It’s starting to cool down (well, maybe not in Houston) but my mind-set say it’s time for Fall, and with it comes a new array of dishes for the colder weather.  Pasta is my all time go to, there is so much you can do with it and I always fee like it’s a perfectly balanced meal, especially when you add a side salad.

Instead of starting from scratch with ground pork or beef, I start with hot Italian sausage, which already has a great base of spices and seasoning.  It just needs a little doctoring up, and you have a great base for any pasta sauce.  I love the heartiness of this dish, and the spice you get from the sausage.  The auburn color of the sauce reminds me of the leaves changing in Vermont, and it pops with the addition of the fresh green basil and the creamy specks of Parmesan cheese.

Ingredients

  • 18 oz hot Italian sausage
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 tsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. ground back pepper
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 6 roma tomatoes, diced with seeds and juice removed
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 chicken bullion cube
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 lb. spaghetti pasta (or whatever’s your favorite)
  • Fresh Parmesan cheese (I highly urge you to buy the real stuff, not the cheese in the green can that shall remain unnamed)
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves for garnishing

Method

  • Heat medium size skillet to medium~high
  • Peel the casing off the sausage and crumble into skillet
  • Add fennel, Italian seasoning and red pepper flakes
  • Brown sausage and continue to break it up with a wooden spoon into bite size pieces, it doesn’t have to be even, just break it up as much as you can.  Takes about 5-10 minutes for sausage to cook through
  • Remove sausage with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate, leave the oils and juices in the skillet, you’ll use this to cook the onions and garlic
  • Lower heat to medium~low and add onion, garlic salt and pepper, cook for 10 minutes (this is sweating the onions, you want them to become translucent, not brown)
  • Add canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste and stir for 1 minute
  • Add bullion cube, water, sugar and cooked sausage
  • Simmer on low for 10 minutes
  • While sauce simmers, place large pot of water on high and bring to a boil for the pasta
  • Once boiling, add 1 tbsp. of salt and pasta and boil for 9 minutes, or longer depending on the type of pasta you’re using.  I like mine al dente, so I boil mine about 30-60 seconds less than what the package recommends.
  • Strain pasta
  • Add cream to sauce and stir, then remove from heat
  • Usually I would recommend stirring the pasta in with the sauce, but tonight I wanted to put it on top so you could see the vivid color and velvety consistency of the sauce
  • Top with parmesan cheese and basil
  • Repeat for seconds!

Feel free to use different sausage or mild Italian if you’re sensitive to the heat.  I don’t find this dish too spicy, but it would be for kids, so just mellow it out to match your taste.  Happy Fall!

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