brass bra popovers

Have you been outside recently? It’s gives new meaning to the phrase “It’s colder than a witch’s tit in a brass bra!” Seriously, it’s the kind of cold that makes you want to pack the family up and buy a beach shack in Fiji. (The cost of living has to be better than New Jersey and think of all the tourist worthy souvenirs the kids will learn to craft out of coral and palm fronds!) Yup Fiji definitely seems to be the way to go, but until those change of address cards hit the mail I’ve been doing my best to keep the family warm with knit hats, flannel pj’s and giant comforting pots of hearty soups and stews.

I’ve been the butcher, baker and candlestick maker behind the famous (or is it infamous) beets and blue cheese dot com for three plus years, and in that time I’ve posted twenty-three recipes in my soups and stews category. Twenty-three… that’s a lot! I’ve given you everything from Fish Chowder with Bacon and Butternut Squash to Slow-Roasted Tomato BisqueHomemade Wonton to Curried Carrot & Parsnip. Creamy Broccoli & Kale to Cold Cucumber and Potato. Not to mention recipes for Chicken Stout StewTurkey and Bean Chili or good ol’ Classic Beef Stew. And with each recipe I suggest you serve it with homemade rolls or rosemary soft pretzels, bialys or blue cheese crackers; something wonderful and freshly baked. Usually I take my own advice and bake something yummy to serve on the side, but recently I’ve been feeling restless. I’m tired of the same old drop biscuits or cornbread, I want adventure!

Hello popovers.

Back in the day popovers were my thing to make at Thanksgiving. They seemed fancier than your standard roll, required special equipment (something this new cook was happy to go out and buy) and made everyone ohh and ahh when they came out right. When being the operative word. I’m still not positive which recipe I was following, my guess it was it mash up of two, but while they worked like a charm one day they were a giant flop the next. Annoying, aggravating and enough to make this gal shelve her popover pans for years. I came upon those pans the other day and since I happened to be feeling invincible, decided it was time to give them another whirl. However this time I went directly to the source; King Arthur.

When it comes it baking the folks at King Arthur really do seem to know a thing or two. They have blogs and hotlines, recipes and communities, products and classes… they are the undoubtedly the end all and be all of baking information. My family and I actually visited the King Arthur Flour Vermont campus this past summer and honestly if they would have agreed, I would have moved in. It’s an amazing place filled with baking, eating, learning and buying opportunities all set in the beautiful Vermont countryside. A total baking mecca. Anyway back to those popovers— According to the baking gurus at K.A. the ultimate popover is in fact not the result of starting them off in a cold oven, nor does it matter if you use a blender or whisk the batter by hand. No according to them it’s the temperature of your ingredients that are the key to perfectly puffy popovers. Interesting. So armed with some fresh popover baking advice and a King Arthur recipe I focused my attention on baking up a batch of my own. And guess what? Perfectly puffy popovers!

Oh yeah, I’m back baby. I am back.

Super Simple Popovers
These are truly so easy to make you’ll find yourself enjoying popovers all the time.

popovers4

4 large eggs, warmed in a cup of hot tap water for 10 minutes before cracking
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk, lukewarm
1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/2 cups Unbleached Bread Flour
3 tbsp. melted butter

  1. Position the oven racks on a lower portion of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.  
  2. Thoroughly grease* a popover pan (or standard 12-cup metal muffin tin, one whose cups are close to 2 1/2″ wide x 1 1/2” deep).
  3. Traditional method: Whisk together the flour and salt. In a desperate bowl whisk together the milk, eggs and melted butter. Add the flour mixture and blend until just combined.
    Blender method: Place the milk, melted butter, flour, salt and eggs, lightly whisked, into the jar of a blender. Blend on high for several seconds, 
    then stop to scrape the sides. Blend for an additional few seconds but do not over blend
  4. Pour the batter into the popover tin, filling each cup about 3/4 full.
  5. Bake the popovers for 20 minutes without opening the oven door. Reduce the heat to 350°F (again without opening the door), and bake for an additional 10 to 12 minutes, until they’re a deep, golden brown.
  6. As soon as you remove the popovers from the oven stick the tip of a knife into the top of each to release steam and help prevent sogginess. Let the popovers cool slightly in the pan then remove and serve.

*I’ve experimented with several types of fat to grease my popover pans including butter, vegetable shortening and bacon grease. The bacon grease seemed to work the best, followed by the butter. But you be the judge.

**adapted from King Arthur Flour
Advertisements

pancakes for the win

Everyone has a different tradition when it comes to kicking off the holiday season. For some people it revolves around things like ‘Black Friday’ shopping, extreme home decorating or proudly wearing a truly ugly sweater. For others it’s taking the kids to see Santa, sending out that years Christmas card (after agonizing over the picture) or seeing the first flakes of snow. For me it’s all about putting up the tree. Once that white light twinkling, ornament festooned, towering cone of green takes over the corner of my great room it’s ‘game on’. (Although to be honest there have been some years when I started working on my holiday gifts in September. There was the year everyone on my gift list got a hand knit scarf and another year when everyone got baskets of homemade goodies. I made and jarred my own applesauce, bottled my own flavored vinegar and made biscotti, nutella shortbread cookies and toasted almond crack like I was the last baker on Earth. And then I designed and printed my own labels and gift tags. Yeah, that year almost killed me.)

This year however is a different story, This year ‘game on’ is more like “Umm, what? There’s a game? Where?” You see even though we put up the tree earlier than usual and the house has been in a jingle all the way state for sometime— I have yet to knit a stitch, bake a crumb or even get my Christmas cards into the mail. Between the craziness of school assignments and obligations; “Sure I’ll come read to your class on my only day off.” “Yes I remembered the cash for your (crappy and overpriced) ‘Holiday Shop’. ‘The bow on your violin is damaged? Okay let me contact the music people, work out the details of getting a new one and then remember to send the damaged back to school with you.” (I didn’t remember. They had to remind me. It took several weeks to get the new bow. It hasn’t improved his playing.) “What time is your holiday concert and what exactly qualifies as your ‘holiday best’ outfit?” Your Minecraft shirt is green, will that work?!?” “You need how many holiday cards signed and addressed by you (and only you) for your kindergarten classmates? And by when?” “Oh and stocking stuffers for each and every one of them as well? Fantastic!” “No of course were not just giving money for a boring old class gift. Special teacher presents for everyone!” Not to mention we had a soccer season that lasted until Thanksgiving and basketball practice that started soon after, the double-whammy of both kids down with step and ‘Readers Workshop’ books needing to be read nightly and the accompanying flow chart updated (Ok so we got a bit behind on that and had to read six books on one night to catch up). With all this going on I haven’t exactly had the chance to properly pull together Christmas, and now that jolly ol’ Saint Nick will be here in only a handful of days the pressure is seriously on. Which brings me to the point of this post: pancakes. Ha! Betcha didn’t see that one coming did you?

For me pancakes are synonymous with Sunday mornings and Sunday mornings have to be without a doubt my favorite part of the week. On Sunday I get to enjoy my coffee (not guzzle it down before rushing out of the house), I get to read the paper or watch the news and I get to say “What do you want for breakfast?” and have it mean something other than toast or cold cereal. Sunday is the one day that breakfast means bowls and whisks, skillets and spatulas, time and effort, comfort and care. Often that resembles a stack of pancakes. My kids love pancakes. Love them. LOVE THEM! Pancakes with chocolate chips. Pancakes with diced strawberries. Pancakes with bananas. Even pancakes straight up. If you’re offering pancakes they’re eating! And so because I like Sunday mornings and they like pancakes and I like them… I make pancakes, frequently. In fact even when the week prior has been crazed and the one coming up looks no better. When Rudolph and his team are breathing down my neck and I don’t feel remotely filled with good cheer. Even when I’m officially out of time, energy and ideas… A Sunday morning stack of pancakes is never entirely out of the question. Why? Well because pancakes make them happy and because someday I hope they look back on these Sunday morning breakfasts nostalgically. And because good homemade entirely from scratch pancakes are actually easy. “Easy like Sunday morning…”

Simple Homemade Pancakes
I know it’s easy to open a box of pre-mix and just add a little water, but this recipe really is simple and the pancakes are delicious.

pancake

2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups low-fat milk
1/4 cup vegetable oil

  1. In a large bowl whisk together all the dry ingredients. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl beat the eggs, then whisk in the milk and oil.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, whisking until just incorporated and a few small lumps remain.
  4. Lightly grease a skillet or large griddle and heat. Pour 1/4 cup batter onto the hot griddle and cook until bubbles begin to form on the surface. Flip and cook the opposite side until done. Serve with butter and plenty of maple syrup.

Poor Man’s Pasta

There are some nights when I just don’t feel like cooking, the other night was one of those nights. I didn’t want to break down and (gasp!) order out so I took a look in the pantry to see anything jumped out at me. Well there was pasta; but I’m so tired of red sauce and I had a dozen of eggs set to expire; but I just made quiche over the weekend. Hmmm…

What if I mix the pasta and eggs together to make a “poor man’s” carbonara? (Poor man’s because I didn’t have any meat to add— typically bacon or pancetta). I always have plenty of garlic on hand, there were a couple of shallots just waiting to be used and a can of fire roasted tomatoes to add a little color and veggie appeal. Yes, I think this throw together meal was beginning to take shape. But the question still loomed as to whether it would be good or not. But I figured it was worth a try. What’s the worst that could happen… everyone hates it and we all eat pb&j’s instead.

Well good news, the peanut butter never saw the light of day and I now have a tasty new option for those too tired to cook a feast kinda nights!

Poor Man’s Carbonara
This pasta really can be made with whatever you have on hand. I used fuselli, but any shape pasta will work. Fresh tomatoes would work just as well as canned and sweet onion could easily replace the shallots. And if I had some, a little fresh basil sprinkled on top would have been a nice finishing touch.

1/2 lb. pasta of your choice
4 tbsp. olive oil
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 large shallots, sliced thin
1 can fire roasted tomatoes
3-4 eggs, beaten
1/2-3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
reserved pasta water
crushed red pepper, optional

  1. Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to package directions. (When you put the pasta in the water start making the sauce.)
  2. Heat the oil in a large high sided frying pan, add the sliced shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the garlic, and let the garlic and shallots cook until they’re transparent.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper. Cover and allow everything to cook for 5-6 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to soften.
  4. Drain the pasta but reserve 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the drained pasta to the tomato mixture in the frying pan. Add the beaten eggs into the pan and gently toss the pasta and eggs together, allowing the eggs to cook slowly and coat the pasta.
  5. When the eggs are cooked turn off the heat and add the parmesan cheese and enough reserved pasta water to make a creamy (but not too thin) sauce. Gently toss the pasta to fully combine the all the ingredients.
  6. Serve with crushed red pepper and additional grated cheese. Enjoy!

($!*%) quiche!

Quiche and I have a love/hate relationship. I love quiche and I attempt to make it often. However, making it typically ends with me cursing, vowing to never make another ($!*%) quiche again and ultimately ordering pizza.

You see, I’m not one to be content with a simple ham and cheese quiche— no not me, not ever! (If I was I’m sure my troubles would be nil.) No, I want a quiche chock full of all the vegetables I love, as well as some lovely bits of cheese and a nicely browned crust. But here’s the thing about quiche; the more vegetables you add to the mix the more likely you are to end up with a half-cooked soggy-middled mess in a ($!*%) over cooked pie crust!

I know, I’m my own worst enemy. Truly I know this, I totally get it, but I’m tenacious (some may say stubborn) and refuse to be undone by some baked eggs in a pie shell. And so I keep trying. I figure that sooner or later I’m bound to get it right.

Well last week was my week. The stars were perfectly aligned, the Gods were smiling and I finally achieved quiche success! My quiche was fully cooked, it contained two of my favorite vegetables as well as a satisfying amount of cheese and my crust was perfectly browned and crisp. I literally cheered when I took it out of the oven. I did a little victory dance in the middle of the kitchen and high-fived my daughter. Yes, I guess you could say I was finally pleased with the results of my quiche making challenge.

Necessity may be the mother of invention, but good ol’ tenacity always gets the job done…

Caramelized Onion, Broccoli & Goat Cheese Quiche
Using caramelized onions as the first layer in the pie shell may of
been the key to this quiches success. Plus they add a wonderful flavor
that could not possibly be achieved with plain old onion.

1 9″ deep dish pie shell, raw
2 tsp. olive oil
1 giant onion (or 2 lg.), sliced super thin
2 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 10 oz. package frozen chopped broccoli, thawed, drained, and squeezed dry
1 cup milk
3 large egg whites
2 large eggs
1 5 oz. log of goat cheese
1/4 tsp. salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion, sugar, and salt; cook for 30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
  3. Spread the caramelized onion into bottom of the pie crust, then add the broccoli layer on top. Break off little bits of goat cheese and evenly distribute it over the broccoli.
  4. Combine the milk, egg whites, eggs, salt and pepper; carefully pour the milk mixture into the pie plate.
  5. Bake for 1 hour or until set, shielding the edges of the crust with foil after 30 minutes.
  6. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
*adapted from cooking light

Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em

Last Spring I made a discovery that may have changed my cooking forever. Perhaps you’re imagining the ultimate duel-fuel convection range, a set of killer pots and pans or even a wine shop that delivers (and those of you who know me realize how life altering that would be!) But no, it’s not any of those things. My life changing discovery was… Smoked Paprika.

I was first introduced to this amazing spice through a recipe for homemade baked beans. (Not to worry, I’ve already got plans to post that recipe closer to barbecue season). After the rave reviews the beans received I was looking forward to experimenting with this fantastic spice. And experiment I have! I can honestly say that I have yet to find a dish that doesn’t benefit from a little smoked paprika. I sprinkle it on eggs, add it to sautéed peas and mushrooms, put a healthy dose in my chili, add it to my turkey meatloaf and even put a dash on my tossed salad. I love smoked paprika!

Anyway, we recently deep fried a turkey and I was looking for a tasty way to use the leftovers. My family happens to be the type that loves breakfast for dinner, so I made them Turkey Hash with Sunny Side Up Eggs. It was delicious, easy and a hit with everyone. “I could eat this everyday!” and “Is there any more left?” are the comments I heard. Naturally that made me smile, but (almost) more importantly I found yet another use for my beloved smoked paprika.

Turkey Hash with Eggs
If I was making this for just my husband and myself I would
definitely add some hot peppers to give it a little kick.

2 small onions
4 cloves of garlic
1 shallot
5 medium potatoes (I used Yukon Gold)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. sea salt
5 cups leftover turkey, diced
Eggs, to top hash

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes and place in a nonstick roasting pan. Chop the onions, shallot and garlic and add to the roasting pan.
  3. Drizzle the vegetables with olive oil, and sprinkle with the smoked paprika and salt. Toss well to be sure all the pieces are covered with the oil and spice mixture.
  4. Spread the vegetables in an even layer and roast for 15 minutes.
  5. After 15 minutes add the diced turkey, give a stir and roast for another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes and onions begin to look crispy.
  6. When your hash is nearly complete quickly cook 1-2 eggs per person (sunny side up, poached or over easy would be my choice).
  7. Serve hash topped with eggs and a little hot sauce, if you’re so inclined.