Monday, December 28, 2009

Roasted Green Beans with Bacon and Brown Sugar

This isn't a recipe as much as it is a method.  I ended up with a huge amount of fresh green beans after a Costco shopping trip before Christmas.  (Somehow I always get carried away in that store.)  A coworker mentioned that her family loves when she wraps green beans in bacon, tops them with brown sugar, and roasts them.  Bacon?!  Sounded good to me!

I took a handful (about 10) of fresh green beans (I'm sure you can use frozen), wrapped them with one slice of bacon and carefully sat them in a baking dish.  I continued until I filled the dish (I estimated about 2 green bean bunches per person), then topped the entire casserole with brown sugar and a little bit of fresh cracked pepper.  I baked it at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes, then turned the broiler on high for 2 minutes to get a nice, crispy crust.

This recipe is best with regular bacon.  I used thick sliced bacon and it took forever to get crispy.  Even without a perfectly crispy crust, this was really tasty.  It has that sweet-salty thing going on and the green beans are still pretty firm after roasting.  The bacon drippings and brown sugar create this syrupy glaze... so good.  Plus, it's easy.  Try it.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Apple Coffee Cake

We entertained 15 guests on Christmas and I have plenty of stories to tell, but for right now I'm keeping it simple with a post about our very simple Christmas Eve brunch.  (Very simple = coffee and coffee cake)

I saw this recipe on Savory Sweet Life and decided to give it a try.  I'll give it a 4/5.  It was pretty easy to whip up in the morning, and it smelled great, but next time I plan to replace the vegetable oil with melted butter because I feel this cake would be much improved with a buttery flavor.  In case you didn't know, I love butter.  The recipe is satisfactory as-is, but I believe the melted butter would take it over the top. 

The original recipe called for Granny Smith Apples.   I love Granny Smiths, but I had a fridge drawer full of Cortland and Jonagold apples, so that's what I used.  I'm sure the Grannys would have tasted better (I love their tart flavor), but I used what I had.

I added a few extra spices to the batter (nutmeg and ginger) and at the last minute I decided to add chopped walnuts and almonds to the top.  I bet it would have been even better if I created a crumble topping with nuts, butter, flour, and brown sugar for the topping.  Next time.

So, as you can see, this recipe makes a huge cake.  I live in a household of two, so I ended up serving some of this as a dessert on Christmas (I baked it for brunch on Christmas Eve).  Next time, I would halve this recipe and bake it in a smaller dish. 

Overall, it's much better than any coffee cake you could purchase at a convenience or grocery store and perhaps better than those sold at some coffee shops (although I'm still trying to figure out that sticky cinnamon swirl in the Reduced Fat Coffee Cake at Starbucks... yum!). 

Apple Coffee Cake
recipe from Savory Sweet Life

3 c. all-purpose flour
2 c. granulated sugar
3 t. baking powder
2 t. of vanilla
4 eggs
1/4 t. of salt
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. of apple sauce I used unsweetened
1/2 c. vegetable oil

for the apple filling:
5 Granny smith apples, peeled and sliced
1/3 c. of granulated sugar
1 T. of cinnamon I added 1/2 t. ginger and 1/2 t. nutmeg

Preheat oven at 350°F and grease a 9×13 baking dish.  In a medium bowl, toss sliced apples, 1/3 cup of sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl and set aside.

In a mixing bowl combine flour, 2 cups sugar, baking powder,vanilla, eggs, salt, oj, apple sauce, and vegetable oil until well mixed. Approx. 5 minutes in a mixer. Pour half the batter into baking dish and arrange apple slices on top. Pour and spread the rest of the batter on top of the apples. I topped it with 1 c. toasted nuts.  Bake for 60 minutes or until done. My cake took nearly 90 minutes.  Cut coffee cake into squares and serve warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc

I "discovered" this wine while waiting in line at the Costco liquor store about a year ago.  I perfer dry whites and I love citrus flavors and a gentleman in the store told me that he buys this wine by the case because he loves its grapefruit flavor.  Grapefruit!  In wine?  Oh yes, I had to have some.  I love citrus scents and tastes.

Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc did not disappoint. It's light and refreshing and it definitely has a nice citrus flavor.  Bonus:  It doesn't have a cork (I understand that unoaked wines don't need one), so I can travel with the bottle and open it anywhere (think really casual BYOB spots, hotel rooms, my cabin on a cruise ship...). 

Around my way this wine retails for between $13-15 per bottle.  I find that pretty reasonable.  If you live near one, I recommend purchasing it at Total Wine.  The store is large, has an extensive selection of alcoholic beverages, and really helpful staff.  Our location even does tastings on weekends.  Good times!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Date Nut Spice Bread

After I blogged about Ina Garten's latest cookbook, Back to Basics, I decided to flip through it and try another recipe.  It was Sunday morning (okay, more like Sunday afternoon) and I didn't want to do our traditional bacon and pancakes or waffles weekend brunch, so I opted for Ina's Date Nut Spice Bread

Believe it or not, I had never eaten dates, but I like to try new stuff, so I picked up a box a few weeks ago.  I had been considering using them to make sticky toffee pudding or wrapping them in proscuitto or doing something fancy, but then I saw this recipe and figured that this was just a good a time as any to bust out the exotic dried fruits. 

I don't particularly like nuts in my baked goods, but I don't hate nuts, so I went ahead and kept them in the recipe.  I just opted to chop them up really small with my mini food processor.

I like that this bread isn't loaded with fat (only 1/2 stick butter).  It also isn't super sugary, so it can be eaten alone or with a topping.  Ina's recipe included a cream cheese spread, but I kept it real and topped my warm bread with real butter.  Why go through the hassle of making specialty cream cheese when good ol' butter will do?

This bread makes me think of weekend brunch.  It would be great for company, or you can be like me and enjoy it at the dashboard diner on the way to work the next day.  With my coffee in my cup holder and this bread balanced on my console I'm ready for my one hour commute!  Enjoy!

Date Nut Spice Bread
from Back to Basics by Ina Garten

2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)  mine came in an 8 oz. box and that was plenty
1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges) I zested 4 clementines
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves I didn't have any cloves, so I replaced them with cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges) I cheated and used Tropicana
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces) I used walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.

Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Spritz Cookies

Butter.  Sugar.  Flour.  Classic.  Most people really like spritz cookies.  They are basic, but you can spruce them up by adding sprinkles or flavorings or even dipping them in chocolate.  I like them because they are (almost) as pretty as (much more tedious) cut-out cookies, but they taste just as good and are much easier to make.

My husband (then-boyfriend) bought me a cookie gun (I know it's called a cookie press, but I renamed mine) about ten years ago as a Christmas gift.  I still have it, but it's battery operated and I haven't removed the batteries in years, so I snagged an new (still in the box) Pampered Chef cookie gun at a neighborhood yard sale last year (no batteries required). 

Every cookie gun works differently but I've learned a few basics through experience:
  • The dough will only work if it's freshly made (soft).  Don't try to refrigerate the dough and make the cookies later.  It will be way too thick for shooting.
  • I let my freshly baked cookies cool completely before eating them.  This is one cookie that tastes better and holds up better when it's cool.  I also let them sit out for several hours (or overnight) before packing them up to travel.
  • Use an ungreased baking sheet.  Don't line it with Silpat or parchment paper.  The cookies are full of butter and they will not stick.  Pan liners just make it more difficult to release the cookie dough for the gun.
  • These cookies do not expand much during baking, so you can press them pretty close on the baking sheet.
Classic Spritz Cookies
from Pampered Chef

1 1/2 cups butter (3 sticks), softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Colored sugar or sprinkles (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.  In large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar on medium speed of electric mixer about 3 minutes or until creamy, scraping down sides as necessary. Add egg and vanilla; beat well. Add flour; mix on low speed just until blended, scraping down sides as necessary. (Dough will be soft; do not refrigerate.)
Fit Cookie Press with desired disk; fill with dough. Press dough onto Cookie Sheet 1 in. (2.5 cm) apart. Decorate cookies with colored sugar or sprinkles, if desired. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool cookies 2 minutes on Cookie Sheet; remove to cooling rack. Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: 6-7 dozen cookies

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carne Adovada

I found this versitile recipe for slow roasted pork seasoned with New Mexican chiles on use real butter.  I like Tex-Mex, I love Mexican food, I like burritos, tacos, and chimichangas and carne advada is a multi-purpose filling for almost any Tex-Mex recipe.  I think it came out pretty well.

When I read "carne" I assumed this was made with beef (which I don't prefer), but when I found out the recipe actually called for pork I got really happy.  My husband makes fun of me because I am always trying to find new recipes for my beloved pork loin and pork tenderloin.  I agree with the recipe creator that this recipe would be better with pork butt or pork shoulder, but I had a pork loin with a considerable layer of fat in my deep freeze, so I opted to use what I had for this experiment.

The marinade is made from dried chiles (easy to find at my Shop Rite, but depending on where you live, you may need to hit up a Latin American market).  It also has garlic (yum!), oregano, and I added coriander seed. 

The chiles are roasted, soaked, then pureed with oregano, garlic, coriander, and salt to create a marinade for the pork.  I let the pork chill in the fridge for a day before I roasted it for four hours.

The result was soft, well-seasoned (but not spicy hot), moist (but not greasy) pork.  We rolled ours in soft flour tortillas.  I ate some of the leftovers mixed in with beans and rice.  The only bad thing is that we live in a household of two, so we got sick of eating it after two or three days and ended up wasting some (I suppose we could have frozen it). 

Carne Adovada
from use real butter

16 dried, red chile pods  I used Guajillo chiles
3 tsp salt  I added a little extra salt
4 cloves garlic
2 tsp oregano
1 t. ground coriander (my addition)
5 pounds pork (any tender cut) (*jen’s note, use pork shoulder)  I used pork loin, but a shoulder would be better

Preheat oven to 325F. Remove stems from the chile pods. Place pods in a pan and bake for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until chiles are lightly roasted. Leave oven door open (I didn’t do this). Don’t breathe the fumes! I shook the seeds out of the pods and discarded them. Place pods in a medium bowl and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 30 minutes.

 Drain the water from the chile pods, but reserve about 2 cups for the purée. Place pods in a food processor or blender. Add the salt, garlic, and oregano. Cover the mixture with the chile water. Blend well for 2 minutes or until the skins disappear.

Cut the pork into 2×4 inch strips. Place the pork in a ziploc bag and add the sauce. Thoroughly coat the pork. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 325F. Place pork and sauce in a baking dish. Cover and bake for 4 hours or until meat is tender. Shred or chop meat.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Food & Wine

I don't consider myself to be a gourmet cook, but I do enjoy well prepared and beautifully presented meals with high quality ingrdients.  I subscribed to Food & Wine for the first time in 2009 and although I've attempted few recipes from this magazine, I'll be renewing my subscription in 2010.

As much as I love to cook (and eat), I don't have time for elaborate meals on weekdays.  Almost everything in this magazine is elaborate.  But, OMG, it's just so... beautiful.  The wines, the cookware, the fine cheeses, the advertisements for luxury cruises.  Reading this magazine is like a fantasy.  I love recipes that challenge me and Food & Wine is full of them.  I think I'll "grow into" this magazine.

As I've mentioned before, I have a huge collection of recipes clipped from various magazines that just sit in a disorganized pile on our file cabinet waiting to be scanned.  Fortunately, Food & Wine has a website where I can locate recipes from previous issues, so I can just have an electronic recipe file and recycle or share my old issues of the magazine.  That's always a bonus and I wish every magazine would do this.

I did attempt the Pull-Apart Cheesy Onion Bread and I really enjoyed it.  The recipe is a bit confusing, so I improvised.  The result was a buttery, cheesy, savory biscuit-like loaf of bread.  One slice was more than enough!  The leftovers were great reheated.  My hubby didn't enjoy it because he's anti-onion and a bit picky about cheese. 

If you are broadening your cooking horizons, I recommend Food & Wine.  If I had more time (and money) I'd attempt more recipes from this magazine.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hot Chocolate

This is not a Keeley original recipe, but I found it on Short Stop a few weeks ago and loved it so much I just had to share.  I like hot chocolate.  A lot.  Before I got into coffee, hot chocolate was the only warm beverage I would consume.  I used to think that the best hot chocolate was made from a premium mix from Williams-Sonoma.  Now, that mix is good, but this homemade mix is cheaper and just as tasty (dare I say, better).

The best part?  If you don't drink it all, just pour it in a container, refrigerate it, and reheat it in a mug later and it tastes just as good... maybe even better.

I prefer my hot chocolate a little less sweet, but still rich and chocolatey, so I made some modifications to the original recipe.  I also love to top mine with a fluffy cloud of whipped cream.  Here's my modified version:

Hot Chocolate


8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (I use mini-chocolate chips)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)

Store mix in an airtight container.

For 4 servings:

2/3 cup cocoa mix
1/4 cup water
4 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large pan on low heat, stir cocoa mix and water until melted. Add milk and beat with whisk until smooth. Heat on low until hot. Add vanilla. Serve.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back to Basics

I love the Food Network and Ina Garten is one of my favorite Food Network personalities.  She's written several cookbooks and I love them all.  Her latest book is Back to Basics and it's well worth the purchase price and a great gift idea for Christmas.  A great cookbook costs less than a decent restaurant meal, but can inspire you to cook foods that will bring you and your family great meals for years.  That's what I call a good investment.

I "discovered" Ina when I worked at Williams-Sonoma in college.  The Food Network was just getting hugely popular and I was really getting into cooking with good tools and good ingredients.  All of Ina's books were on display at the store and I would watch her show at home and see her impressive collection of kitchen tools (all sold at Williams-Sonoma, of course).  She made me want to be a great cook and hostess.

Her books are all full of huge, full color photos and detailed instructions.  She also includes interesting stories about the creation of the recipes and fun entertaining ideas.  I enjoy the casual and relaxed mood of her cooking shows and how she uses a few good ingredients to create very impressive meals.  I've loved almost everything I've chosen to cook from her books. 

My favorite recipes (so far) from Back to Basics are Baked Shrimp Scampi and Homemade Granola Bars.  There are so many other recipes that I can't wait to try and I'm sure I'll be blogging about them soon. 

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cooking Light

I love magazines, especially food magazines.  I have a piles of magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and handwritten recipes in my home office just waiting to be scanned.  (Yet another item on my to-do list.)  I find food magazines to be a great value because it's like getting a mini cookbook every month.  Cooking Light is especially convenient because they publish a hardback book that contains every single recipe from their magazine each year, so I can recycle or share my old magazines without worrying about clipping my favorite recipes.

I enjoy making healthier versions of traditional foods, but I also expect full flavor and I do not like artificial ingredients.  I do not eat margarine or artificial sweeteners.  I'd rather drink water than diet soft drinks and I'd rather have a small quantity of real butter than settle for an oily spread.  I was skeptical when I first picked up an issue of Cooking Light because I assumed it was a diet magazine.  I was completely wrong.  Cooking Light uses real ingredients (even bacon!) to make healthy dishes.  I've made recipes from Cooking Light and no one has even realized that they are light versions. 

If you are trying to cut calories and you love to enjoy good food, I suggest a subscription to Cooking Light.  This magazine has helped me make healthy substitutions for our meals without resorting to bland processed diet foods. 

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Coconut Pound Cake

My family loves this cake.  People who don't like coconut love this cake.  People who love coconut beg for this cake.  I can't show up for certain family functions without this cake. 

Before you go crazy about the ingredient list, I'll just put it out there:  this cake is a fat and cholesterol explosion.  It has Crisco and butter and sugar.  If that's not enough, it's made with a half dozen eggs than topped with a sugary glaze.  Don't even think about using margarine or Splenda or any of that other fake mess.  Yes, I know.  But, that's why people love it.  It's a special occasion cake.

This cake travels and ships well.  It actually tastes better after you let it sit for a few days.  I make this cake at least two days before the occasion.  Also you must use a serrated knife to slice this cake.  Otherwise,  you'll have a crumbly mess on your hands. 

This is one of the desserts that made my husband fall in love with me.  Please make this cake for someone you love (or even someone you like).

Coconut Pound Cake

for the cake
1/2 c. solid vegetable shortening (Crisco)
1 c. (2 sticks) butter
3 c. sugar
6 eggs
3 c. flour, sifted
1 c. milk
1 t. almond extract
1 t. coconut flavoring
1 c. dry flaked coconut

for the glaze and topping

1 c. water
1 c. sugar
1 t. coconut flavoring
1/3 c. dry flaked coconut

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Generously grease and flour a 12 c. bundt pan.  

Cream together butter and Crisco with an electric mixer (I use my Kitchen Aid).  Add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well between each egg.

Gradually alternate adding flour and milk.  Make sure you start with flour and end with flour.

Add the coconut and almond extracts.  Stir in the coconut by hand.

Pour the batter into the bundt pan.  Wrap the pan on the counter a few times to even out the batter.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean.  Poke holes all over the cake using a toothpick or skewer.  Pour the hot glaze over the hot cake and sprinkle with dry coconut.  Let cake cool completely before removing from pan.


Bring water and sugar to a boil.  Cook for 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.  Remove from heat and add coconut extract.  Pour immediately over hot cake.
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