Monday, May 28, 2012

Eggs and Vegetable Hash

Since my husband has become a vegetarian, I have naturally cut back on my own meat consumption. That's not to say that I don't enjoy a nice steak or a burger, but it's easier to cook just one meal at a time. Sometimes it's a challenge, especially since I'm not entirely fond of fake meat products. Yesterday, I took note of the cover of my Vegetarian Times magazine and saw a great pic of a skillet meal of eggs and vegetables. What a tasty idea! So, while I didn't follow their recipe, I did run with the idea and made my own version---Eggs and Vegetable Hash.

Eggs and Vegetable Hash

3 medium russet potatoes
2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced green pepper
1/2 cup diced sweet onions
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon seasoning of choice* (try combining basil, savory, rosemary, thyme, etc.)
4 large eggs
Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Peel and dice the potatoes into 1" pieces; rinse in cold water. Place the diced potatoes in a medium saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook for 1-2 minutes or until slightly softened. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, over medium high heat. Add the potatoes, green pepper and onions and saute for 5-7 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the seasonings and cook for an additional 5 minutes. 

Reduce heat to low. Make 4 cavities in the mixture with a spoon. Break one egg into each cavity. Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes, or until the egg whites are set. Sprinkle with ground pepper.

*I'm kind of lousy when it comes to measuring spices. Usually, I toss in whatever I have. I'm also prone to picking up jars of spices that sound good. What I actually used in this recipe was a hefty sprinkling of Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute and a few grinds of Trader Joe's South African Smoke (guaranteed to add that "wonderful Umami flavor, which can be elusive"). I am aware that there are those that don't like spice blends, so feel free to use your imagination.

I do love those runny eggs....

Who said vegetarian food was boring?

Saturday, May 19, 2012

K Bars


Comfort food. It's different for everyone. From mac 'n cheese to meatloaf to Zwieback cookies, I've heard from many people about what kinds of food are considered comfort foods. This much is certain---whatever your comfort food is, it probably started out as a childhood favorite. So it is for one of my comfort foods, the K Bar.

Funny, I always thought the K Bar was unique to the Midwest. Indeed, it seems that the name K Bar (also known as the Special K Bar) is mostly used in Wisconsin and Minnesota. In other parts of the world, there is a similar bar that is called a Scotcheroo. From what I can gather, the recipe is the same but for the use of Rice Krispies rather than Special K. To me, that is a huge difference.  

Those of you who have never heard of a K Bar might be surprised to see that Special K cereal is used for something so decadent. Indeed, when I tried to research the history behind the K Bar (I came up with nothing), most references were to the Special K Diet Bars (which, in my opinion, pale in comparison). My sister insists that they were invented by the mother of one of her childhood friends. She says that the recipe won a contest with the cereal company. I've heard more far-fetched stories, so maybe there is some truth to the rumor. Kellogg, after all, is the name behind the Scotcheroos recipe. Perhaps they swapped out the cereals when Special K went the diet route. Of course, others who grew up with K Bars will insist that members of their own families created this, and who would I be to argue? Best to leave the history piece alone and serve up a slice of your own deliciousness.

Don't most good things start with peanut butter?

Even among K Bar enthusiasts, there exist variations of the recipe. I like mine pretty gooey, so I cut back on the cereal a bit. Does anyone really want them to be dry? And the frosting on mine is a combination of chocolate chips and butterscotch chips. I imagine the Scotcheroos were named for said butterscotch chips.

K Bars

1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanut butter
5 cups Special K cereal
1 cup chocolate chips
1 cup butterscotch chips

Place cereal in large bowl and set aside.

Combine sugar and corn syrup in medium sized heavy saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture just comes to a boil.

Remove from heat and stir in peanut butter.

Pour mixture over cereal and carefully stir with a rubber spatula.

I like using the foil pans. After all, you'll probably be bringing these to a potluck or a gathering of some sort...too dangerous to keep at home. 

Spread mixture in a greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle the chocolate chips and butterscotch chips evenly over the top. Place in a 300 degree oven for just a few minutes until chips are soft.* Use a knife or spatula to spread chips together and frost bars.

Allow frosting to set, and cut into 24 to 36 bars.

*Alternately, melt the chips together over low heat or in microwave and then spread over bars. I like the less messy route.

I chilled mine to set this time, because it was warm in the kitchen. This makes it pretty hard, so let it sit out for a few minutes if you decide to do this.

What's your comfort food?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Strawberries and Cream Muffins...Improv Challenge

Wow...where does the time go? It's already time for the May Improv and I'm late to the party. The Improv Challenge is a fun project hosted by Kristen of Frugal Antics of a Harried Homemaker, where we create recipes based on two flavors each month. This month we have Strawberries and Cream, and while I could have gotten really creative with that combination, I decided to go easy and make a muffin (although I spiced it up, just a little, with some cardamom and a bit of orange).

It's been a little hectic at our house for the past few weeks as my mother-in-law, Alice, has been battling a recurrence of cancer and it is in its final stages. She's been my biggest supporter and taste tester...she will be so sorely missed. I thought of her love of sweets as I baked these today.

I almost passed on the challenge this month, but look what I had in the fridge...strawberries and cream! It was meant to be.

Strawberries and Cream Muffins
Printable Recipes

2 cups flour, divided
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1 1/2 cup sliced, fresh strawberries
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg, slightly beaten
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.; line a 12 cup muffin tin with paper liners.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together 1 3/4 cups of the flour, the baking powder, 1/2 cup of the sugar, the salt, cardamom and orange peel; set aside.

oops...almost forgot the sugar...almost.

Toss the sliced strawberries with the remaining 1/4 cup flour. Mix the cream, egg, butter and vanilla together in a small bowl or measuring cup. Add the strawberries and the cream mixture to the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed...batter will be lumpy...don't over mix.

With a cookie scoop, divide the batter among the muffin cups. Sprinkle the remaining sugar over the batter. Bake the muffins for 17-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Cool on a rack for 10 minutes. Serve warm.

For you, Alice. May you have nothing but sweet, sweet dreams.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Pizza Braid

I know. Another braid. It's an obsession. Perhaps it's because I grew up with braids. Yes, I was the Dutch girl with braids. Tempting, they were (at least to Dennis D, who sat behind me in fourth grade and played giddy up with them on a daily basis). At any rate, I have to share my one last braid recipe with you, this time a savory one.

You may recall that a few months ago I had the opportunity to visit the Red Gold Tomato Company. I won a blogger contest and was able to travel to Indiana, where I met up with six other bloggers and was treated to a tour of the Red Gold facilities and a night to remember at The Taste of the NFL. While there, we were introduced to the family behind the Red Gold Company, the Reicharts. I got the feeling they were a little confused as to what kind of recipes The Dutch Baker's Daughter could come up with using canned tomatoes. How do baking and canned tomatoes go together? I ended up promising Brian Reichart, Red Gold's CEO, that I would come up with a pizza bread of sorts. I think a pizza braid fits the bill, don't you?

Don't think I'm really a Red Gold fan? Check out my cupboard....

I had a flavor combination in mind when I started my little pizza braid project....I was looking for a slightly sweet, soft dough wrapped around a spicy sauce. Contrasting flavors, if you will. So, while you can certainly take a shortcut and use frozen bread dough or canned pizza dough, I urge you to try my homemade won't be sorry.

First, we want to start with the sauce. I made this right before I used it, but it may taste even better if you make it a day ahead. Feel free to add a little salt--we cut back on it at our house.

Spicy Pizza Sauce
2 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ cup white wine
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they are soft, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and the wine; cook for an additional minute. Stir in the tomato paste, diced tomatoes, Italian seasoning, pepper flakes and black pepper. Reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the vinegar; cool.

On to the dough--

First we start with a "sponge" gets the yeast going...

For the dough, I borrowed heavily from the King Arthur Flour braid recipe, but I had to cut back on the sweetness and add a bit of savory....adding a little Parmesan cheese helped with that.

Pizza Braid Dough

3/4 cup warm water (110-115 degrees F.)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon instant yeast
1/2 cup all purpose flour

all of the sponge
3/4 cup sour cream
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour

2 cups Spicy Pizza Sauce
2 1/4 cups shredded Mozzarella cheese
Assorted veggies and or meats of your choice

For the sponge, combine the water, sugar and yeast in a medium bowl. Stir in the flour. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let it sit for about 10 minutes.

In a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer, combine the sponge, sour cream, butter, eggs, sugar, Parmesan cheese, and 4 1/2 cups of the flour. Fit the mixer with the paddle attachment and beat the mixture until the dough is rough and shaggy. Switch the paddle for the dough hook and knead the dough at medium speed for about 6 minutes, or until smooth, adding additional flour if needed.

Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Allow to rise in a warm, draft-free area for 60 to 90 minutes or until about double in size.

Gently deflate the dough and divide in two. Cover one of the halves with plastic wrap and set aside. Roll the remaining dough into a 10"X15" rectangle (do this over parchment paper or a silpat for easy transfer on to the baking sheet).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Spread 1/2 cup of the shredded cheese down the center third of the dough. Top with 1 cup of the pizza sauce and about a cup of assorted chopped veggies. I used onions, green peppers, olives, and spinach leaves, but you could add pepperoni, or crumbled sausage, as well. Top with an additional 1/2 cup of cheese.

Cut 1" crosswise strips down the sides of the rectangle. Starting from one end, bring one of the dough strips across the filling diagonally. Repeat on the other side, crisscrossing the dough strips. Continue down the rest of the braid, alternating strips to form the loaf. Repeat the rolling, filling and braiding with the second braid. Set both braids aside, cover lightly, and allow to rise for 45 to 60 minutes. Brush each loaf gently with an egg wash (one egg beaten with a pinch of salt). Sprinkle with dehydrated onions or poppy seeds, if desired. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.

I didn't brush the first loaf with egg wasn't as pretty.

I ended up sprinkling dehydrated onions on the top of my gave it a little something.

These take a little time to make, but oh so worth it...

I would love to hear what you would put in your pizza braid. Sauerkraut? Baked beans? It's all good.