Thursday, July 14, 2011

A Tale of Two Sheet Cakes

Sometimes--too often, in fact--my roommate will ask me to go into the kitchen after dinner and make her a chocolate cake. But by the time I am done preparing and serving dinner, I don't usually have the stamina to make an elaborate dessert.

One night recently, she made her usual request, not expecting that I'd comply, but that's when I remembered The Pioneer Woman's much-ballyhooed chocolate sheet cake, known in every other Junior League and church auxiliary cookbook as Texas Sheet Cake or even Texas Brownies.

The beauty of this recipe is that it uses cocoa, not melted chocolate, and because you mix the batter all in one saucepan, and you frost the cake while warm, you can have a freshly-made, from-scratch cake ready to be served in about 45 minutes, start to finish! And OH MY, it is LUSCIOUS and downright SINFUL! Why in the world has it taken me this long to make one? I won't make that mistake again. However, one thing I would advise is to halve this recipe if you're going to make it for just a couple/few folks. As good as it was, I ended up having to give half of it away because it makes a HUGE (half sheet pan) cake!

Texas Sheet Cake
(Source: adapted from The Pioneer Woman)
Yield: 24 servings (or 16...tee hee!)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons (heaping) unsweetened cocoa
2 sticks butter
1 cup boiling water (I prefer to use brewed coffee)
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 whole beaten eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup chopped pecans, toasted for a few minutes in a dry skillet
1-3/4 sticks butter
4 heaping tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
6 tablespoons milk (I prefer to use sour cream)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 1/2 cups powdered sugar (two cups was plenty for me!)

In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Set aside.

In a saucepan, melt butter. Add cocoa. Whisk together. Add boiling water or coffee. Allow mixture to boil for 30 seconds, then turn off heat. Pour over flour mixture, and stir lightly to cool. (I added the dry ingredients right into the saucepan with no ill effects. Why dirty another bowl unnecessarily?)

In a measuring cup, pour the buttermilk and add beaten eggs, baking soda, and vanilla. Stir buttermilk mixture into butter/chocolate mixture. Pour into a sprayed 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan.and bake at 350-degrees for 20 minutes. (If your oven is wonky like mine, be sure to rotate the pan a little before the halfway point.)

While the cake is baking, make the icing. Chop pecans and toast. Melt butter in a saucepan (I like to brown it for extra flavor). Add cocoa, stir to combine, then turn off heat. Add the milk or sour cream, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Whisk together. Add the pecans, stir together, and pour over warm cake.

Let the frosting set up a bit (or chill thoroughly, if you prefer), then cut into even pieces and serve. Store leftovers in the fridge.

As incredible as the chocolate sheet cake is (and I can hear the chocoholics shrieking before I even say this), I am more of a vanilla gal myself. And GUESS WHAT? Some genius at Taste of Home came up with an equally decadent white version. (Note: White Texas Sheet Cake sounds like dessert at a Klan rally. It needs a better name.)

As usual, I had to put a couple of twists on my version (swapping out vanilla for some of the almond extract, and using buttermilk, a touch of maple syrup, and macadamias as well as walnuts in the frosting), but even my chocoholic roommate said, and I quote: "It made the chocolate cake seem so-so by comparison...and I LOVED the chocolate cake!" In fact, I decided to freeze half of this cake rather than part with any. Tee hee.

White Texas Sheet Cake
(Source: adapted from Taste of Home)

1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup water
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon almond extract (I cut this back to 1/2 teaspoon and added 1 teaspoon vanilla)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/4 cup milk (I used buttermilk)
4-1/2 cups confectioners' sugar (I used about three cups)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (I added 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)
*I also added 2 tablespoons Grade B maple syrup, optional
pinch of salt
1 cup chopped walnuts (I only had about 3/4 cup walnuts, so I threw in an additional 3/4 cup macadamia pieces, both toasted in a dry pan)

In a large saucepan, bring butter and water just to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat; stir in the flour, sugar, sour cream, salt, baking powder, extract(s) and baking soda until smooth. Add eggs last and whisk in well.

Pour into a sprayed 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan. Bake at 375° for 18-22 minutes (rotating halfway)  until golden brown and a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack for 20 minutes.

For frosting, in a large saucepan, bring butter and milk just to a boil. Immediately remove from the heat; stir in confectioners' sugar, extract(s), maple syrup (if using), and salt. Stir in toasted walnuts; spread over warm cake. Cool completely before serving. Store in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Back in Blaak

Are you guys watching "The Fabulous Beekman Boys" on Planet Green? If not, you are SO missing out! It is charming and hilarious, and I envy them so much, because they are living my dream life in a country mansion in upstate New York (downstate from me!): raising animals humanely, making goat's milk soap and goat cheese artistically, gardening organically, and entertaining elegantly. The docu-series is in its second season, but I also highly recommend Josh Kilmer-Purcell's memoir, The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers. Josh's writing is personable and laugh-out-loud funny. It would make a very entertaining beach read.

I'm also very excited that they have a cookbook coming out in the fall called The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook. In the meantime, they have many wonderful-sounding recipes on their website, and I have already whipped up a homemade batch of their savory Blaak onion jam, made from caramelized onions,  balsamic and maple syrup. It was DELICIOUS with crackers and wedge of Dubliner, as I am still on the waiting list for some of their celebrated Beekman 1802 Blaak goat cheese.

Note: I put a big glob of the jam on top of the cheese to try and get a decent picture, but this would be WAY too much to actually eat with one cracker. The Blaak Onion Jam is powerful ju-ju!

Beekman 1802 Blaak Onion Jam

3 cups of hand-chopped onions (chunky)
1 cup of balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1 tablespoon of butter
salt and pepper to taste

Caramelize onions in butter until tender and golden brown. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add balsamic vinegar and cook about an hour (or until vinegar thickens.) Add syrup and cook about another hour until mixture thickens. Place in a jar with a sealable lid and process in a hot water bath for ten minutes to preserve for up to a year. Once opened (or if not processed), the mixture needs refrigeration.

Here are some ways to use it:

--An appetizer:
· Slice some thin slices of a baguette and toast until golden brown
· Cut thin slices of pear and coat in a tablespoon or so of brown sugar (set aside)
· Top a baguette slice with goat cheese
· Top with a couple of pear slices
· Top with a dollop of onion jam (not too much – it’s intense)

--A companion to a salad (or an appetizer):
· Use a puff pastry – take 1 sheet and brush with olive oil
· Sprinkle with your favorite herbs (I use rosemary and thyme)
· Spread with onion jam
· Top with chunks of soft goat cheese
· Top with other sheet of puff pastry
· Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with more herbs and coarse salt
· Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes (until golden brown)

--Try in an omelet – farm fresh eggs, goat cheese, tomato, spinach & onion jam

--Use with pork, in a stew, on a burger or a sandwich (great with turkey and melted cheese)

Friday, July 08, 2011

Bake sale!

Since I bought a house and moved into town, I don't get to see my dear former next-door neighbor Ken nearly as often, and I miss him. He clearly misses me, too, as he posted a message on Facebook saying that he had signed me up to contribute some goodies for a bake sale at the hospital on his behalf. (Tee hee.) But he is such a good guy and always does so much for me and my roommate that I agreed to help out.

When I think "bake sale," I always think of Cookie Madness. As a mother of a school-age daughter and as a previous winner of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Anna gets asked to bake for events A LOT. So on her blog, she even has a category of recipes that work well for bake sales. In perusing that part of her blog, I spied a luscious-looking treat called Magic Blondies that resembled a cross between a cupcake and a seven-layer (or "magic") cookie bar. And I thought, that's the ticket! They were very easy to make, and they looked so cute. I knew they would sell well.

Magic Blondies
(Source: Martha Stewart via Cookie Madness)

2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 cup (180 gram) semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup (120 grams) chopped toasted pecans
1 2/3 cups (220 grams) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon (5 ml) baking powder
3/4 teaspoon (3 ml) coarse salt
9 tablespoons (125 grams) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (220 grams) packed light-brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 C). Line a 12-cup muffin tin (standard size) with paper liners; set aside. Stir together coconut, chocolate and pecans; set aside. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, until pale and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla; mix until combined. Reduce speed to low or by hand, stir in flour mixture, scraping down sides of bowl, until well combined. Mix in about a cup of the coconut mixture.

Divide batter among muffin cups, filling each about three-quarters full. Sprinkle remaining coconut mixture over tops and bake on center rack for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out with moist crumbs.

Blondies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to two days.

I made a double batch of the blondies, and though the recipe led me to believe that I would end up with 24, I actually got 16 out of each batch! I suppose I was making them a little small, but I had enough of the topping for the extra blondies, too. It's a mystery. In any case, 32 treats probably would have been enough ("It's a GESTURE, Claree!"), but I felt bad for Ken who was very sick last year due to celiac sensitivities, and now he's a gluten-free guy. His favorite flavor combo is peanut butter and chocolate, so I decided to whip up some more of the peanut butter cookies that I made recently, but convert them to gluten-free. Now I am well aware that you can make great peanut butter cookies without any kind of flour at all (just peanut butter, sugar and eggs), but I really loved that recipe, and I had a hunch that I could swap out a gluten-free baking mix of some kind.

I decided to try Bob's Red Mill, but I realized after I was home from the store that they recommend the addition of xanthan gum. The next day, I went by the co-op to procure some, but it was $14 a package, and I only needed 1/2 teaspoon or so. Thus, I threw caution to the wind and made the cookies without the xanthan gum, and they came out great. I was worried that they were spread a lot and possibly burn, but I kept a close eye on them while baking, and they came out puffy and golden, then spread a bit as they cooled. So they were flatter than the version with wheat flour, but they had a good texture, and terrific flavor. In fact, if I didn't tell you they were gluten-free, you would never have known. It didn't hurt that I also swapped out Reese's Mini Peanut Butter Cups for regular chocolate chips. ;-)

I got 35 cookies out of this recipe, which made enough for us to sample a couple and for Ken to have a few, and still have plenty left for the bake sale. I was worried that people might be turned off by the idea of a gluten-free cookie (like it might be dry and tasteless), but the lady at the hospital who coordinated the event said they sold like hotcakes, as did the blondies. So...bake sale mission accomplished!

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(Adapted from the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook)

1 1/4 cups Bob's Red Mill gluten-free all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup peanut butter at room temperature (smooth or chunky)
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar (I used dark)
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped peanuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or mini Reese's Cups, cut in half)

For sprinkling: 1/4 cup (or so) sugar, regular or superfine

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine the flour, the baking soda, the baking powder, and the salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and the peanut butter together until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat until smooth. Add the egg and mix well. Add the milk and the vanilla extract. Add the flour mixture and beat thoroughly. Stir in the peanuts and chocolate chips or mini pb cups. Chill dough for a few hours.

Place sprinkling sugar on a plate. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (I use a regular cookie scoop) into the sugar, then onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving several inches between for expansion. Using a fork, lightly indent with a criss-cross pattern, but do not overly flatten cookies. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes (until just a pale golden color). Do not overbake. Cookies may appear to be underdone, but they are not.

Cool the cookies on the sheets for one minute, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Oh, one last note about packaging. I wish I would have thought to take a picture, but I forgot. I bought some of those cellophane treat bags at Wal-Mart for $1.50 (20 or 25 bags?). They had cute little balloons on them that matched the ballon cupcake liners that I used for the blondies. Then my wonderful roomie wrapped everything for me while I was teaching my night class on Wednesday. She cut the baggies basically in half, then placed a blondie in the bottom part, and closed it with a twist-tie. Then she used the leftover top of the bag to fashion a little envelope into which she placed two peanut butter cookies, and sealed it up with a piece of clear packing tape. So we packaged more than four dozen bake sale items in an attractive manner for less than three bucks without much hassle. Score!

Monday, July 04, 2011

America the (Asian?) Melting Pot

I trust that everyone had a fabulous Fourth? We didn't do much around my house, but I did fire up the smoker (that we affectionately call R2D2) and made the MOST wonderful Sweet-n-Sassy Smoked Chili Pork Chops! The recipe is an adaptation of a winning pork recipe for a contest from Bush's Grilling Beans hosted by The Pioneer Woman. You should really check out all of the finalists' recipes: I have also made the harissa ribeye (YUM!), and I will be trying the tandoori chicken breasts soon. But I was charmed by the idea of a marinade for pork that involves soda pop. And guess what? It was DELISH! Of course, I had to make a few additions to put my own twist on the dish...and I'd do it again!

Sweet-n-Sassy Smoked Chili Pork Chops
(adapted from a contest-winning recipe featured on The Pioneer Woman)

8 bone-in pork chops (about an inch thick)
1 12 oz. bottle root beer (or Coke or Dr. Pepper)
4 to 6 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1/2 cup sweet chili sauce (plus more for basting*)
2 tablespoons brown sugar
juice of one lemon
1 10 oz. bottle apple juice
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon whiskey mustard (or strong-flavored mustard of choice)
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons hot sauce (or to taste)
1 sweet onion, sliced thinly

Combine above ingredients and let marinate at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours. Smoke the chops for about three hours, basting with more chili sauce or your favorite barbecue sauce (*I used Sweet Baby Ray's). You may also grill over direct heat until desired doneness.

We ate four of the pork chops last night for our (day before) Independence Day dinner along with baked potatoes and corn on the cob. But there were four chops leftover (not to mention half a package of hoagie rolls hanging about), and I had a brilliant idea to refashion the smoky pork into a bahn mi of sorts. Technically, what I ended up with was not exclusively Vietnamese, because I dressed the sandwich with teriyaki mayo (nod to Japan), and the piece de resistance was my homemade cucumber kimchi known as Oi Sobagi, so that added a Korean element. Come to think of it, I added some Thai fish sauce to that, too. So I'm sure I broke some important rules of Asian fusion along the way, but DANG, did I come up with the most flavorful sandwich!

Ok, first, the cucumber kimchi. So I am still in my food fermentation fetish period, especially since I have received my copy of Wild Fermentation and the accompanying workshop on dvd. However, after all that sauerkraut, I couldn't face another cabbage, and I didn't want to wait weeks and weeks to enjoy my product. So I thought I might make a quick cucumber kimchi that only takes 24-48 hours to ferment, and it turned out SO delicious! My only regret is that I couldn't find any of the Korean ground red pepper flakes in my tiny little town, so my pickles lack that characteristic red color in Korean kimchi. Oh well. I'll pick some up the next time I'm in Montreal or Burlington.

Oi Sobagi (Cucumber Kimchi)
(adapted from the blog amusingly entitled, "I Can Smell the Crazy" )

5 mini seedless cucumbers, sliced thinly
1/2 tablespoon canning or kosher salt
1/4 large sweet onion, sliced or diced
2 green onions, sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon sriracha (better yet, use 1 tablespoon ground Korean hot chili flakes if you can find them)
1 teaspoon fish sauce (of course, this is Thai...but a yummy addition to the mix)

Salt sliced cucumbers and let sit overnight. Drain. Add other ingredients. Ferment at room temperature for 24-48 hours. Fill a pint jar and store in the fridge.

Lastly, to make the bahn mi-type sandwich, I toasted the rolls, spread them with a little mayo that I had spiked with a splash of teriyaki sauce, added some slivers of raw onion, then slices of the smoked pork (warmed slightly, but not hot), and finished with the cucumber kimchi (oi sobagi). So much flavor--and just CRAZY GOOD! I hope your Fourth of July eats were just as sparkly, and that you shared them with family and friends.

Sunday, July 03, 2011

WILD about fermentation!

This "summer" has been one long, wet, extended spring, and we rarely have had a day that's warmer than 80 degrees. Taking advantage of this mild season, I decided to attempt a project that's usually best left until fall: SAUERKRAUT! I have never made my own sauerkraut before because, well, I used to think I hated it. And that commercial stuff in a can still makes me gag, but then I had an experience in Montreal that made me change my mind. As I have blogged about before, there is an Eastern European food stall in the Jean-Talon Market where they serve these AWESOME Romanian hamburgers topped with their own housemade sauerkraut. And the kraut is not terribly sour, and it's fresh-tasting and crispy. So delicious!

That was the kind of sauerkraut that I wanted to make. So I bought five heads of cabbage and got to work, following the methodology of the guru of fermentation, Sandor Ellix Katz, aka Sandorkraut. His website is extremely helpful with lots of free resources, but I recommend that you check out the "bible" of fermentation, Wild Fermentation. You can even purchase a bundle with a fermenting workshop hosted by Sandorkraut himself on dvd. It's a terrific deal! I also watched a LOT of other videos on YouTube to a visual feel for the process.  This one was my favorite: (I need to fashion a chopping tool like that for next time! Tee hee.)

If I decide that I am going to be fermenting vegetables all the time, I may decide to spring for one of those fancy Harsch crocks. But since this was my first attempt, I bought a two-pack of very large food grade plastic storage containers at Sam's Club. The plastic cupcake holder from my cake carrier fit perfectly on top of the kraut, and I weighted it down with a gallon milk jug filled with water. Then I covered it all with a large flour sack towel. And I kept it on top of the kerosene monitor in the kitchen, since it tells me what the temperature is there at all times. (Ideally, you want to ferment your sauerkraut between 72-78 degrees.)

My big newbie mistake was weighing the cabbage at the grocery store BEFORE removing the outer leaves and coring and chopping.  So for 12.5 pounds of whole/pre-cut cabbage (five heads of varying sizes) plus a few shredded carrots, I used about eight tablespoons of canning salt. Then when the natural brine didn't rise above the cabbage, I added another couple of quarts of brine on top of that. And then it just sat there, doing nothing for a week. When we tasted it after seven days, it was GAWD-AWFULLY salty! So I siphoned off a couple of quarts of the very salty brine, and replaced it with two quarts of fresh water. That did the trick! Suddenly, it was bubbly and burping like crazy, and the brine level was rising as it should be when it's working. Lesson learned: too little salt and the cabbage will spoil, but too much and fermentation won't occur.

After that, I skimmed the scum off the brine daily and tasted the kraut at the end of each week. I declared my sauerkraut "finished" after three weeks, but remember, I was going for a fresher, crunchier kraut. Most folks would have probably let it go at least another week beyond that, up to six weeks if you really want it tangy.

Before packing into jars, I strained off and reserved the juice, then I rinsed the sauerkraut in cold water a few times because it was still a bit too salty for my tastes, then I mixed the brine (with all of its probiotic properties that aid digestion) back in. I got four and a half quarts, which I am storing in (unsealed) jars in the garage fridge. Of course, it will continue to ferment, but very, very slowly, and the kraut fridge should keep for months that way. Project Sauerkraut SUCCESS!

Wild Fermentation Sauerkraut
(Source: Wild Fermentation)

Special Equipment:
Ceramic crock or food-grade plastic bucket, one-gallon capacity or greater
Plate that fits inside crock or bucket
One-gallon jug filled with water (or a scrubbed and boiled rock)
Cloth cover (like a pillowcase or towel)

Ingredients (for 1 gallon):
5 pounds cabbage
3 tablespoons sea salt

1. Chop or grate cabbage, finely or coarsely, with or without hearts, however you like it. If you mix green and red cabbage, you'll end up with bright pink kraut. Place cabbage in a large bowl as you chop it.
2. Sprinkle salt on the cabbage as you go. The salt pulls water out of the cabbage (through osmosis), and this creates the brine in which the cabbage can ferment and sour without rotting. The salt also has the effect of keeping the cabbage crunchy, by inhibiting organisms and enzymes that soften it. 3 tablespoons of salt is a rough guideline for 5 pounds of cabbage.
3. Add other vegetables if you like. Grate carrots for a coleslaw-like kraut. Other vegetables you might add include onions, garlic, seaweed, greens, Brussels sprouts, small whole heads of cabbage, turnips, beets, and burdock roots. You can also add fruits (apples, whole or sliced, are classic), and herbs and spices (caraway seeds, dill seeds, celery seeds, and juniper berries are classic, but anything you like will work). Experiment.
4. Mix ingredients together and pack into crock. Pack just a bit into the crock at a time and tamp it down hard using your fists or any (other) sturdy kitchen implement. The tamping packs the kraut tight in the crock and helps force water out of the cabbage.
5. Cover kraut with a plate or some other lid that fits snugly inside the crock. Place a clean weight (a glass jug filled with water) on the cover. This weight is to force water out of the cabbage and then keep the cabbage submerged under the brine. Cover the whole thing with a cloth to keep dust and flies out.
6. Press down on the weight to add pressure to the cabbage and help force water out of it. Continue doing this periodically (as often as you think of it, every few hours), until the brine rises above the cover. This can take up to about 24 hours, as the salt draws water out of the cabbage slowly. Some cabbage, particularly if it is old, simply contains less water. If the brine does not rise above the plate level by the next day, add enough salt water to bring the brine level above the plate. Add about a teaspoon of salt to a cup of water and stir until it’s completely dissolved.
7. Leave the crock to ferment. Try to store the crock in an unobtrusive corner of the kitchen where you won’t forget about it, but where it won’t be in anybody’s way. You could also store it in a cool basement if you want a slower fermentation that will preserve for longer.
8. Check the kraut every day or two. The volume reduces as the fermentation proceeds. Sometimes scum appears on the surface. Skim what you can off of the surface; it will break up and you will probably not be able to remove all of it. Don’t worry about this. It’s just a surface phenomenon, a result of contact with the air. The kraut itself is under the anaerobic protection of the brine. Rinse off the plate and the weight. Taste the kraut. Generally it starts to be tangy after a few days, and the taste gets stronger as time passes. In the cool temperatures of a cellar in winter, kraut can keep improving for months and months. In the summer or in a heated room, its life cycle is more rapid. Eventually it becomes soft and the flavor turns less pleasant.
9. Enjoy. Scoop out a bowl- or jarful at a time and keep it in the fridge. Start when the kraut is young and enjoy its evolving flavor over the course of a few weeks. Try the sauerkraut juice that will be left in the bowl after the kraut is eaten. Sauerkraut juice is a rare delicacy and unparalleled digestive tonic. Each time you scoop some kraut out of the crock, you have to repack it carefully. Make sure the kraut is packed tight in the crock, the surface is level, and the cover and weight are clean. Sometimes brine evaporates, so if the kraut is not submerged below brine just add salted water as necessary. Some people preserve kraut by canning and heat-processing it. This can be done, but so much of the power of sauerkraut is its aliveness, why kill it?

Now that you've made sauerkraut, what will you do with it? Of course, you have to have some on a hot dog--that goes without saying! But for a proper dinner, may I suggest kapusta?

First, fry up a half pound of bacon and roughly chop it. Then chop a large onion and saute until translucent in the bacon fat. In your crock pot or Dutch oven, add three pounds of potatoes cut into large chunks (peeled or not, your choice), the cooked bacon pieces, the sauteed onions, a pound of kielbasa cut into large chunks, and then top it all with two or three cups of your homemade sauerkraut. Cook on low for about eight hours in the crock pot or covered in the oven at 250 for about six hours. YUM!

Friday, July 01, 2011

My salad days, when I was green in judgement, (and wishing I was) cold in blood...

We've actually had a few days recently that felt less like spring and more like summer. So I thought I share a quick post to hip you all to my new favorite salad for a yummy warm weather supper. I know, I know. I do tend to go on about some of my magnificent salad creations, but I think I may have really done it this time!

It's a take-off on Waldorf Salad, if you will, or at least inspired by similar flavors, including: leaf lettuce, grilled marinated chicken breast, MacIntosh apple slices, spring onion slivers, toasted walnuts, gorgonzola crumbles, and Brianna's Poppyseed Salad Dressing. Of course, you can use your favorite brand of poppyseed dressing, but some of them are overly-sweet to my palate, and I just love the tanginess of Brianna's, which is also delicious on fruit salad. In any case, put this one into your summer salad rotation. It's SO GOOD!!

Gina's Waldorf-Like Summer Salad

Marinade (for four boneless, skinless chicken breasts):
4 oz. Brianna's blush wine vinaigrette (or your favorite vinaigrette, whatever you have hanging about in the fridge that needs to be used up)
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon whole-grain Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
handful of fresh thyme

Marinate the chicken breasts for a minimum of four hours, or better yet, overnight. Grill over high heat until no longer pink inside, then cool.

For each entree salad (approximately):
4 cups leaf lettuce, torn
1 grilled and cooled chicken breast, sliced
1/4 cup toasted and cooled walnut pieces
1/4 cup gorgonzola crumbles
1/2 large (or 1 whole small) apple, cored and sliced
2 tablespoons thinly-sliced spring onions
1/8-1/4 cup Brianna's poppyseed dressing (to taste)
sprinkle of black pepper