Month: June 2011

Pastyfest 2011 and The Strawberry Festival

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I am a big fan of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The natural beauty of the place is remarkable.  And if there’s one place that I have a particular fondness in the U.P., it’s the Keweenaw Peninsula (well, there and the Soo Locks / Sault Ste. Marie).  The Keweenaw is the northernmost tip of the state (here’s a link to the Convention & Visitors Bureau).  It’s not the easiest place to get to, especially from the opposite corner of the state over here by Detroit.  I’d equate it to driving from Miami, FL all the way to Pensacola, FL.  It’s roughly the same distance, but to get to Copper Harbor (which at the very tip of the Keweenaw) you don’t have some nice fancy interstates to take you anywhere.  The closest thing would be US – 41.  Interestingly enough, US-41 ends / starts at Copper Harbor.  The other end?. . . it’s in Miami, FL.

But here are a couple of events happening in the next couple of weeks that would be fun to attend.  Coming up on July 1 – 2 in Calumet is PastyFest 2011 (I already ordered a t-shirt.  The mascot is awesome!).  What better way to celebrate Independence Day that with a Pasty Festival?  And the following weekend (July 8 – 9) is the Copper Country Strawberry Festival in Chassell.  As an aside, this area used to be copper mining country, hence the name and the pasties.  Pasties, with a history dating back to 18th century England, were a standard lunch that miners took down into the mines.  They are a meat and vegetable filled turnover with a pastry crust.  It was portable and it could be warmed up on the lamp that miners had on their helmets.  Some pasties had even had a built-in dessert of fruit on one end of the turnover.  How cool is that?

So if you’re in the area or if you want something fun to do, check out these festivals.  It’s a nice weekend trip and I’m sure there’ll be lots of good food.

Caipirinha Limeade

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I was looking around for another nice summery drink and I stumbled upon this recipe on Martha’s website (hopefully we all know which Martha I’m talking about).  What I was looking for was a recipe that could help me use up my cachaca that wasn’t just a caipirinha.  In the regular caipirinha recipe, you just muddle the lime in some sugar and pour in the booze.  This recipe is still close, but it does amp up the lime.

Now for those who may not know, cachaca is a liquor that is made from sugar cane.  It is different from rum in that it is made directly from the juice, whereas rum is usually made from molasses.

For some reason or another, I thought that this recipe would make like a gallon of the limeade.  Granted I did read the recipe and somehow I figured out 5 1/2 cups of liquid would be more than enough to fill my pitcher.  Maybe I’ll just put in lots of ice.  I could double up the recipe, but juicing another 16 limes is too much of a task right now!

My next mission is to find several recipes that can use up my Pisco!

Here’s what you need:

  • 4 limes, cut into 8 wedges each
  • 2 c. plus 2 T. superfine sugar
  • 2 c. fresh lime juice, strained
  • 1 1/2 c. cachaca

Muddle the limes and the sugar in a pitcher or container with a wooden spoon.  Add the lime juice and mix to dissolve the sugar.  Add the cachaca and stir.  According to Martha, you can keep this in the refrigerator up to three days.  For the leftovers, I strained out the limes and plan on keep it in the fridge until it’s gone.  I’m sure it will be fine, but I’m not 100% sure how the acid from the lime juice will alter the flavor of the cachaca over time.

Triple Coconut Pound Cake with Lime Glaze

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This is just a little twist on your basic pound cake.  I came up with this because I had to use up some ingredients that I didn’t want to spoil in my fridge.  There was some coconut milk and shredded coconut (both sweetened and unsweetened) that was left over from a batch of coconut cupcakes.   So why not try to use some of that up in another cake?  And this is the end result.  Here’s what you need:

For the cake:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. cornstarch
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1 c. shredded sweetened coconut
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. coconut milk
  • 1/2 c. toasted unsweetened coconut

1.  Preheat the oven to 325.  Butter and flour a 9 x 5 loaf pan and set aside
2.  Sift together the flours, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt into a mixing bowl.  Add the sweetened coconut and mix.  Also, mix together the coconut milk and vanilla into a measuring cup and set aside.
3.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy on medium speed.  Beat for about 2-3 minutes.  Gradually add the sugar and honey, beating well for another 5 minutes.
4.  Reduce speed to low and add the eggs one at a time, making sure to the mixture is well combined after each addition.  Scrape the bowl if needed.  In three additions, add the flour mixture, alternating with the coconut milk.  Mix until just combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan
5.  Bake for about an hour, until set in the middle.  Cool in the pan for 15 – 20 minutes before unmolding.  Glaze the cake while it is still warm, then allow the cake to cool completely on a wire rack.

For the glaze:

  • the zest and juice from 2 limes
  • 2 1/2 c. confectioners sugar

1.  In a mixing bowl, place the zest and juice from the 2 limes.  Add the sugar and whisk until combined.  The amount of sugar that you need will probably vary somewhat.  It depends on the amount of juice in the limes, the humidity in the air, and the sugar.  Now I like the glaze to be fairly thick for this cake, but you can make it more liquid if you like.

2.  Pour the amount of desired glaze over the cake.  You will probably have some leftover which you can reserve for another application (for sugar cookies or maybe some turnovers).

Notes — Now I didn’t strain the lime juice so the glaze is a little bit chunky.  But I kinda like the look.  Also, I think that this could be nice in one of those round cake pans, like a Bundt or something like that.

Chai cupcakes with a Chocolate Chai ganache

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So it’s National Iced Tea Month.  And I understand that this is a cupcake recipe, but it’s got chai in it, so that’s close.  Just have a glass of an iced beverage when you have a cupcake.  You just won’t have “ice” and “tea” incorporated into a single item.  But, in my opinion, it’s really hard to come up with an interesting recipe for iced tea that doesn’t involve Long Island.  Maybe I could post a sun tea recipe. . .

Anyhoo, back to the cupcakes.  I use an instant chai mix to add the flavor and color to a nice cupcake recipe.  I did also add a little bit of whole wheat flour to add some additional color, texture, and flavor.  The instant chai is also used in the glaze by dissolving it in the heated cream before adding the chocolate to it to make the glaze.  This makes about 2 dozen standard-sized cupcakes.  Here’s what you need:

For the cupcakes:

  • 1 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 T. baking powder
  • 1 stick of butter, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 t. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. milk
  • 1 T. instant chai

1.  Preheat the oven to 350.  Line your pan with paper or foil liners.

2.  Sift together the flours, salt, and baking powder into a medium-sized bowl.  In a measuring cup, dissolve the chai into the milk and set aside.

3.  In the bowl of a mixer, beat the butter until light.  Gradually add the sugar and mix until fluffy, about 3 – 5 minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add the vanilla and combine.

4.  In three additions, add the flour mixture, alternating with half of the chai mixture.  Mix until just blended, being careful to not overmix!

5.  Fill the cupcake liners about 2/3 full.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until set in the middle.  Cool in the pans for about 20 minutes before removing them.  Cool completely on wire racks before glazing.

For the glaze:

  • 1/2 c. heavy cream
  • 8 oz. chocolate, chopped (I used a dark chocolate)
  • 2 t. instant chai

1.  In a double boiler, combine the cream and chai, making sure the chai is dissolved.

2.  Add the chocolate, and stir until melted.  Remove from the double boiler and allow to cool slightly.  Use a spoon to dollop on a bit of the ganache onto the cooled cupcakes.

Notes — I liked the finished product, but there are a couple of things that I want to try:  (1) I might try to use cake flour instead the AP flour; (2) maybe use three eggs instead of two; (3)  might also try using the “one-bowl” method instead of creaming.  That method is supposed to reduce the gluten that is formed, which is important to consider when using whole wheat flour.  In theory, you should be able to substitute up to 1/2 of the flour in a recipe without changing too much, but there are differences between AP (all-purpose) and whole wheat flours to consider (like moisture content).  So you may need to tweak things a bit.

Freezing Rhubarb

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This is a quick post, but it seems like everyone seems to go crazy for rhubarb.  So I wanted to post something showing how to freeze some rhubarb so that you can have some on hand months after the season is done.  It’s simple and the process takes just a couple of minutes.  The only area of concern is making sure you have enough space in your freezer!

There are methods out there that involve packing the rhubarb in some sugar or a simple syrup.  I like this method, maybe because it’s the quickest and easiest.  Here’s how I do it.  You will need the following:

  • resealable freezer bags
  • permanent marker
  • sheet pan
  • rhubarb

1.  Wash your rhubarb and allow it to dry.  While waiting for it to dry, use the permanent marker to label and date the freezer bags.

2.  Chop them into 1″ or 2″ pieces.  Lay them onto the sheet pan in a single layer, leaving some space in between the pieces.  Put the pan into the freezer.

3.  Leave in the freezer for a couple of hours, just to be sure that everything is frozen.  Once frozen, transfer them into the labeled freezer bags and remove as much air as possible before sealing them.  You could use a straw to remove the air.  Store in your freezer until you need them.

Notes — Keep in mind that when you thaw the rhubarb, it will lose some moisture.  In the process of freezing, ice crystals are formed in whatever it is that you’re trying to preserve.  These crystals rupture cell walls, which is how you get all that liquid.  The cells can no longer hold everything together, so everything just kinda spills out.  Now don’t discard any of that liquid.  I say that you should save that liquid and just put it into whatever recipe on which you are working.  Or you could use it to make syrup, or make a sauce, or something along those lines.

One way that you can avoid all these hassles (but get a whole different set of hassles) is to use dry ice.  Dry ice freezes everything so quickly that large ice crystals don’t have a chance to form.  So in theory, once you thaw something that was frozen with dry ice, it should taste and feel the same as if it were fresh.  I got this from Alton Brown on his show Good Eats.  It was on one of his shows (Here’s part 1 and part 2 of “Strawberry Sky”.  The bit about freezing is in part 2).  It’s a shame that they won’t be making any more Good Eats shows.

Baked Eggs with Roasted Peppers

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What’s wrong with brunch?  Nothin’ I tell ya’!  I love a lazy Sunday brunch.  Now this past Sunday brunch was lazier than usual in the fact that it started at around 12:15 pm.  I guess you can’t really call it brunch anymore if it’s that late.  But again it’s a lazy Sunday.  Which is why I try to keep brunches very simple.  And it is the only meal where I allow any kind of meal from a box.  Take waffles and pancakes for example.  I know how to make them from scratch, and if I am motivated enough to do it (or if I am doing some type of early morning entertaining), I will make them from scratch.  But (for the third and hopefully final time) it’s lazy Sunday!  And that’s why I love my giant bag of Krusteaz in my pantry.  Just add some eggs and butter and *poof!* you’ve got a whole bunch of waffley or pancakey goodness.  And if you want to make it extra fancy, just add some fruit to the mix.  Or even chocolate chips.  Williams-Sonoma always has some very nice waffle mixes and there’s probably a store not too far from you.  I also love stuff from Stonewall Kitchen, but that might be a little bit more difficult to find.  I especially love their jams like the Peach Amaretto or Wild Maine Blueberry.

But I digress. . . Back to the recipe!  Now this is a nice traditional French dish.  Sometimes called shirred eggs, it’s hearty and rustic, plus it’s simple and quick to make.  Now there are a bunch of recipes out there.  Some have a little bit of cheese, some have some wedges of tomato, some have just some herbs, and some are pretty much a quiche with no crust, leaving the eggs unscrambled.  I added some slivers of roasted peppers to just add some different flavors and textures, but they can certainly be omitted.  To make it even more Provencal, I had initially wanted to add some lavender, but I was overruled.  So in with the peppers.

For whatever reason, I don’t make Baked Eggs all that much, but I like the recipe so much that I bought 2 baking dishes specifically for this.  Good thing I can use those dishes for other things.  Now this is nice to serve with toast, probably a good sourdough or wheat bread.  I had some leftover biscuits that I had as a side.  It’s good to have something to help sop up all the liquidy deliciousness left from the eggs, cream, and butter.  You’ll need a small type of ramekin or some other similar type of baking dish.  It will need to be shallow so that the heat can surround the eggs.  This is especially important since the dish will be in the oven for a total of about 10 minutes, with the eggs being in there for maybe 5 of those minutes.

Here’s a single serving recipe.  Here’s what you need:

  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T. cream
  • 1 t. butter
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • Herbes de Provence, to taste
  • red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 1/2 roasted pepper, sliced into strips

1.  Set the top rack in the oven to about a 8 inches or so from the heating element.  This will probably be the second highest level in the oven.  Turn the broiler in the oven to high.  Leave the oven on for a couple of minutes to get everything to temperature.

2.  Place the cream and butter in the baking dish.  Place in the preheated oven for about 5 minutes, until bubbly and somewhat browned.  Doing this step helps ensure everything cooks evenly.  Now while the cream is heating in the oven, crack the eggs into a measuring cup or some other vessel that can facilitate easy pouring.  It is important to minimize the amount of time the dishes are out of the oven.

3.  When the cream is ready, remove the dish from the oven and add the eggs.  Season with the herbes de Provence, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.  Add the roasted peppers and return to the oven under the broiler.

4.  Cook for another 4-7 minutes, until desired doneness.  The less time it is in the oven, the runnier the yolk will be.  Usually leave it in the oven until the whites are almost set.  Remove from the oven and let it sit for about a minute to let it set.  Like with scrambled eggs, they still continue to cook while out of the oven.  After the minute is up, it’s then ready to serve!

Grilled Beet Pilaf

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I don’t know about y’all, but when I think about rice pilaf, there is always an air of mystery.  But when you look up what a rice pilaf actually is, it’s basically some rice with some other stuff in it.  It’s usually some wild rice, but it could be some toasted onion, spices, raisins, nuts, etc.  Tah-Dah!  Mystery solved.  Of course, some are more complicated where you toast the pre-cooked rice in some butter with some vegetables and spices, then cook everything in some broth or some saffron water.  This recipe is much simpler.

Pilaf can be traced back to the Middle East to about 2500 years ago.  Historians have found that the dish was probably served to Alexander the Great and Darius the Great. It has spread to become a very international dish.  But if you think about it, paella or risotto could be considered a pilaf.  Even fried rice could fall into that category.

Now I don’t really know how to quantify some ingredients since some leftovers were used and everything was thrown together.  I had some beets leftover from some other dish that I didn’t end up doing (I had originally planned that Mixed Green Salad with Chive Flowers and Fried Goat Cheese to also have Roasted Beets.  But it seemed too busy so I nixed the beets.)  Plus, there was some leftover brown rice in the fridge with which I needed to do something.  So this is my first real attempt to “standardize” the recipe.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 beets, peeled and sliced about 1/4 – 1/2 ” thick and cut into quarters (I used a red and an orange beet)
  • 1 medium onion, sliced about 1/4 – 1/2″ thick
  • 1 t. Herbes de Provence
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • salt & pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. chive butter
  • 3 c. cooked brown rice

1.  On a large sheet of foil, place the beets, onion, and herbes de Provence.  Drizzle with the olive oil and toss gently.  Add the salt & pepper.  Fold half of the foil sheet over and crimp the edges to seal them and make a pouch.

2.  Place the foil pouch on the grill and cook for 25 – 30 minutes, until the beets are tender.

3.  Transfer the cooked rice into a serving dish.  Empty the contents of the foil pouch on top of the rice and toss to combine.  Top with the chive butter.

Note — If you are making this for someone who’s vegan, just omit the butter.  Plus you can still cook this on the grill with some burgers and hot dogs and the like along with the beets because they are self-contained.  Since they are in a foil pouch, the beets are protected from the meat.  Of course, there are some who might object to using the same cooking surface regardless.  You could always get a second grill!