Wednesday, January 30, 2013

52 Cookbooks Challenge #2: Easy Breakfast & Brunch: Simple Recipes for Morning Treats

When my husband and I moved in together, I realized I was going to have to become the "Queen of the Brunch". My husband worked the 4 p.m. to midnight shift, Wednesday to Sunday. If we wanted to entertain together, it would have to be on the weekend before he left for work at 2 p.m. This means Brunch.  The next logical step to becoming a Queen is to get a killer cookbook, so I hopped online and ordered Easy Breakfast & Brunch: Simple Recipes for Morning Treats by Susannah Blake.

The cookbook arrived and I remember thinking how bright and fresh everything looked. Then, the poor thing went up on my cookbook shelf and became part of the d├ęcor. Not because it didn’t have viable recipes (as I have rediscovered) but more that we didn’t host as many brunches as I had planned.  Besides, cooking for guests at that early morning hour usually meant I needed something brainless, like my go-to frittatas or everyone’s favorite, Farmer’s Casserole.

This weekend, my mom was visiting me while my dad was in Brooklyn. I handed her the cookbook and said, "What do you want to eat?" She chose the Pecan and Chocolate Muffins. Given the lack of preparation I had allowed myself for the recipe, we substituted walnuts (my favorite match with chocolate anyway).

Walnut & Chocolate Muffins
Adaptation of the recipe from Easy Breakfast & Brunch: Simple Recipes for Morning Treat

1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 1/2 ounces walnuts, chopped small*/**
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 cup milk
4 Tablespoon butter, melted
3 1/2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips*
Chopped walnuts to decorate**

* I use a small scale I got a weight loss meeting years ago. You can get digital scales for $20 and I think when you are dealing with items of strange sizes, it’s better to weight anyway.

** The original recipe called for 2 1/2 ounces of ground pecans and chopped pecans to decorate.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a small bowl, sift flour and baking powder together. Add walnuts and chocolate chips and mix to coat. In a medium bowl, mix together brown sugar, egg, butter and maple syrup and beat well. Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix to combine.

Spoon batter into a 12-muffin tin with cupcake liners. Fill them up generously, making sure to use all the batter (muffin will not rise so much that they spill over). Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.

Cook muffins for 18-20 minutes or until light golden brown and toothpick comes out clean. Cool and serve slightly warm, no need for butter.

These muffins can be made ahead of time and warmed in the oven to save time on party day. They are also good for work meetings – perfect with a cup of coffee or nice milky black tea.

Makes 12 muffins 

Everything is easy enough to mix by hand.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

52 Cookbooks Challenge #1: Nigella Kitchen

My first of new recipes for the New Year was from my culinary idol, Nigella Lawson (are you really surprised?).

On my honeymoon, Nigella’s Kitchen debuted on the shelves. It was great, I was in England for my honeymoon and my favorite cook had a new cookbook out and she was English – how perfect!! I picked up a copy at the airport (couldn’t wait). I was so excited to have a true English version of my idol’s cookbook. I read it front to back on the flight to Edinburgh and made plans for all the good food I was going to make.

Flash forward 2 weeks and I’m home, in my kitchen with my new Harrods Christmas mug full of Breakfast blend from Edinburgh and ready to try a recipe out of my treasured honeymoon gift to myself. I tried pumpkin biscuits. You would think it would have been easy, but to my horror (and with a groan) I looked at the recipe for the first time with cook's eyes. Holy crap… it’s in metric! What does gas mark mean for me? How many milliliters in a cup?

Out came the computer and I started my translation. I translated the measurements best I could to match my cups and ounces.  I made the recipe per my changes, thinking it was quite simple. And the biscuits were... well.... crap. I totally attribute this to my translation and maybe a bit to my own taste buds (I’m not as big of a fan of pumpkin as I thought).

After that, my beautiful book was shelved not to be opened again but to keep as a tribute to my honeymoon trip.

This past winter, I was in my local bookstore chain and they were having a sale on the American version of Nigella Kitchen – YAY!! I picked it up and now, without need of translation, I was ready to dive in again. First off the block is comfort food at its best – Ed’s Mother’s Meatloaf.

Ed’s Mother’s Meatloaf

1 raw egg
2 hard-boiled eggs (shelled)
1 onions (2 if you don’t have a finicky husband), diced
3 tablespoons butter and or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound ground beef
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
10 slices of bacon

For a one pot recipe, use a cast iron skillet (looks kind of awesome too).

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In a skillet, melt butter or heat oil and start to cook the onion. Add a dash of salt to help the onions soften instead of fry. Once onions are soft (4-5 minutes), remove from heat and cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk raw egg slightly. Add raw ground beef, salt, Worcestershire sauce, breadcrumbs and cooled onions. Bite the bullet and get your hands into the bowl (trust me, it will just break a spatula) and mix until well combined.

Split meat mixture in half and make a mound in the now cool cast iron skillet (or in a baking pan with edges). With the side of your hand, make a well in the middle of the meat in the pan lengthwise. Place the 2 hard-boiled eggs end to end in the well. Take the remainder of the mixture and cover the eggs and try to seal the sides. The end product should not show any sign of the eggs.

Take the bacon and start to cover the meatloaf from one end, overlapping the pieces slightly to adjust for shrinkage. Tuck the ends of the bacon under the loaf, like you were tucking your little beef log in to bed with a bacon blanket. Weird, but that’s what it feels like.

Put swaddled meatloaf into the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes, or until the bacon is crisp and there is no more pink on the inside. Let rest 5-10 minutes to reincorporate juices and then serve.

Serves 3-4

Beef Loaf in a Bacon Blanket - cow in a pig blanket?

This is a no-red-sauce meatloaf so it tastes like a super moist, well done burger with the cute surprise of an egg on the inside.  If you serve right after cooking, and the meat you used wasn't too fatty, the juices can be poured over like gravy.  Perfect comfort food!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

52 Weeks, 52 Cookbooks

After a year hiatus from writing, I've decided that I'm going to challenge myself. My challenge - 52 weeks, 52 cookbooks.

Way back when Friendster was old, but MySpace was new, I had looked at my cookbook collection and realized that I had purchased quite a few cookbooks, but never had cooked out of them. They were pretty and fat with ideas of culinary delights, but there were only a handful that I had ever actually cooked out of. I decided then to cook one thing (at least) out if every cookbook I owned. 

The same rings true today. My original challenge has never been met but I feel that since my cookbook selection has more than tripled since then, it's even more important to say that I have honestly used all the cookbooks I own.
Now, with 200+ cookbooks and half in storage, I think that might be a hearty challenge for someone who has been thinking about this for 8+ years. So, so I amend my challenge and add writing about it.

52 weeks, 52 cookbooks 

I have 2 shelves in my living room that are loving adorned with 67 of my most beautiful and favorite cookbooks and still, I have only cooked out of less than a quarter of them, much to the chagrin if my husband. 

With the addition if 6 new cookbooks I received for Christmas and the one other one I still plan to buy, I will pick 52 cookbooks I have not cooked from and try something new each week.  For better or worse, I will share pictures, recipes and experiences with you.

The 6 new Christmas 2012 additions - now... where to put them?


Snowman Pancakes - Simple and Fun!

photo: Non-Foodie Foodie Over the summer we traveled the Ohio River Valley visiting family. One of our stops was to visit my Aunt Cathy...