Monday, July 26, 2010

What a Grill Wants

One of the best things about summer is the built in excuse for getting out of making dinner. "It's too hot to cook!" I whimper plaintively, with the lower lip quivering ever so slightly. My husband, good guy extraordinaire and winner of the Sweet Husband award, 27 years running, will quickly recognize his cue and say, "Sure, honey, I'd love to grill something."

When I gave him grilling planks, a barbecue cookbook and a barbecue magazine for his birthday, he knew it wasn't just selfless love motivating the gifts. I was hoping to see a lot of nights off when I could kick back on the chaise lounge by the pool, sipping a margarita, while he slaved away over his stainless steel baby, smoking up the back yard with the sweet perfume of charred meat.

Well, we haven't yet inflated the wading pool, the chaise lounge is still in the shed, and if any margaritas are to happen, I'll be in charge of the blender, but we have had some awesome barbecue.

When I went on the Seattle Food Tour, one of my fellow bloggers that I met was Don of Sortachef. He built a wood-fired oven in his backyard and his site is filled with mouthwatering pictures of the amazing food he produces both in his kitchen and his back yard. One of the recipes that grabbed me by the throat and wouldn't let go was for teriyaki chicken kabobs. We've made them twice. Sooooo good. The husband and kids even fight over who gets the leftovers the next day, it's that good.

I'll give you the recipe as I made it. You can read the original, plus Don's excellent grilling tips here. So the next day when it's looking to be a scorcher, plan ahead and get your meat marinating early in the day. Then when it's time to fix dinner, it's as easy as tossing it on the grill.

Sortachef Fabulous Teriyaki Chicken Kabobs
- adapted from Sortachef

makes 6-8 skewers, but that can be stretched by including more fruits and veggies

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup water
3 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp shaved fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1 tsp white vinegar
2-1/2 lbs chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1/2 large onion (red or yellow both work), cut into chunks
Pineapple chunks (optional)
Green and or red bell pepper chunks (optional)
Baby corn cobs (optional)

1- Place the first 7 ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Let it cool for 10 minutes.

2- Put the chicken chunks into a bowl and pour the sauce over them. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

3- If you're using wood skewers, soak them in water 15 minutes before you plan to use them.

4- Thread the chicken chunks onto the skewers, alternating with pieces of onion, peppers, and whatever else you choose to use.

5- Brush the kabobs with the marinade.

6- Grill the kabobs about 3 minutes on each side, brushing with marinade once.

It's a delicious meal served over a bowl of brown rice.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Life Upside Down

If there's anything that turns your life upside down, it's having a baby. Add in the fact that the baby came four weeks early, and you have a life without structure or a plan and you just have to wing it moment to moment. It's a bit stressful, chaotic, and uncertain, but oh so sweet. If the floor doesn't get swept or the laundry piles up, it's OK, because on the top of the to-do list everyday is #1- Keep the baby alive. #2 is Love the baby. The dust will keep.

I am fortunate in that I live ten minutes away from my daughter. That means it's easy to go over to help out with chores and then, as a reward, I get to hold Eden. My other kids clamor for the chance to go along, as they, too, are totally captivated by this darling little person. We take pictures, snuggle with her, and chuckle at her funny ways (Must have hands by face!). The rest of our lives are put on hold, but that's OK. It's wonderful to have her here.

If your life gets taken over by life events, you still need to have dessert. This one is super easy, and since you can use fresh or frozen berries, it's a good recipe to have on hand, whatever the season. So in honor of my beautiful new granddaughter, here's

Blueberry Life Upside Down Cake
- adapted from Canadian Living Magazine

1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen)
1/4 cup maraschino cherries (optional)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup milk

1- Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. with a rack in the center of the oven.

2- In a 9-inch square pan, combine melted butter and brown sugar. Spread this mixture evenly on the bottom. Spread the blueberries evenly over the top. Sprinkle with the lemon juice. (optional: halve the maraschino cherries and scatter them over the bottom before you spread the blueberries. My son decided it needed them to really be an upside down cake.)

3- Into a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon, if using.

4- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the 1/2 cup butter. Gradually add the sugar, beating until light. Beat in the egg and vanilla.

5- Add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture, alternating with the milk, starting and ending with the dry ingredients.

6- Spread the batter evenly over the blueberry layer. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out onto a large, flat plate or serving platter. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream, if you like.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bun Out Of The Oven

If you follow the Bread Baking Babes, you might have noticed that I was absent from our posting day last Friday. My absence was especially bad because I was the host kitchen!

Despite what you might think, I'm not a total flake. I had made the bread. Twice. I was ready to put up my post and talk about the recipe. I even had some ideas about how to incorporate that funky 70's hippie vibe that this bread put me in mind of. But then I got a phone call. At 4 am.

My pregnant daughter called to let me know that her water had broken. Four weeks early. Despite all her happy plans for a home birth attended by a wonderful midwife and doula, she and her husband had to go to the hospital. So her entourage went with her. We walked with them, sat with them, helped them make tough decisions.

And then came the labor. Intense labor. So, so hard, with not a moment to nap or recover. But my daughter was amazing. She went through the whole thing without medication and about 19 hours after her water broke, she gave birth to a beautiful little girl.

It was an intense day filled with heartbreak, disappointment, weariness, despair, pain, exhaustion, agony, much blood, and then the miracle of a new little life. So worth it.

So, really, which would you rather I talked about? This, a dense, gummy loaf made from sprouted wheat-

or this. Isn't she perfect?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Uh Oh Birthday

My husband recently had a birthday. He wasn't happy about it. It was one of those with a zero attached and he was vacillating between checking out Ferrari dealerships and retirement communities. Although, to be honest, the draw of the retirement community was that no kids are allowed. Since we can't afford a Ferrari and we still have an 8 year old at home, we settled on cake.

The tradition in our family is that the birthday boy or girl gets to pick their own cake and I make it for them. This year we had several contestants on So You Think You Can Be A Birthday Cake. When the elimination rounds were over, the final cake left standing was the Lemon Icebox Cake featured in the Fine Cooking that had just come in the mail. Lemon, creamy, and Rose Levy Berenbaum - what's not to love?

Well, what's not to love is how long it takes. Not having thoroughly read the recipe, I plunged right in making the angel food cake. After that came out of the oven, it was too late to make the filling, so I left that for the next day. Which ended up being two days later. And then I realized that the filling was not a one-step deal. It was make a custard, make a meringue, fold the custard into the meringue, whip cream, and fold that into the lemon cream. So it was late at night that I was slicing and layering the cake (maybe that's why my layers were so uneven), and then the cake sat in the refrigerator another two days because we were sick and no one felt like eating it.

When we finally got to the cake, I wasn't having warm fuzzy thoughts about it. More like, "eat the stupid cake and clear out the space in the refrigerator, already!" But that all evaporated with the first bite. Oh wow! Smooth, cool, luscious, tart and tangy, sweet, but not too sweet. My husband said it tasted like a lighter version of a lemon meringue pie. A crustless, melt-in-your-mouth version.

Oh, hooray, my work was not in vain! My husband was happy, and that's what counts. That and staying out of Ferrari debtor's prison.

Lemon Icebox Cake
- adapted from Rose Levy Berenbaum's recipe in Fine Cooking

For the lemon filling

1-1/2 Tbs. firmly packed finely grated lemon zest (from 2 lemons)
3/4 cup egg yolks (from 11 to 12 large eggs)
6 Tbs. granulated sugar
2/3 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3 oz. (6 Tbs.) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and softened
Pinch table salt
1-1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled
For the meringue
2 tsp. powdered unflavored gelatin
1 cup plus 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (from 5 to 6 large eggs)
3/4 tsp. cream of tartar

To finish the dessert

1 10-inch Angel Food Cake (recipe follows)
Vegetable oil, for the pan

1- Make and cool the Angel Food Cake, following the directions below.

2- For the lemon filling, put the lemon zest in a 4-quart or larger bowl and set a medium-mesh sieve on top. In a heavy-duty 4-quart saucepan, whisk the egg yolks and sugar. Add the lemon juice, butter, and salt. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until thickened enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon but still pourable, 4 to 5 minutes. (Don’t boil or it will curdle.) Pass the thickened curd through the sieve and mix in the zest. Cool, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.

3- When the lemon curd is cool, beat the cream with an electric mixer on medium speed just until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. With a large balloon whisk or silicone spatula, fold in the lemon curd. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

4- In a small, microwaveable bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over 3 Tbs. water; let soften for at least 5 minutes. Microwave on high to melt the gelatin, 15 to 30 seconds.

5- In a heavy-duty nonstick 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat, combine 1 cup of the sugar and 6 Tbs. water and stir constantly until the syrup is bubbling, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.

6- In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until foamy, 45 seconds. Add the cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form, 30 seconds. Gradually beat in the remaining 3 Tbs. sugar until stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes.

7- Have ready a 2-cup or larger heatproof liquid measure. Return the pan of syrup to medium-high heat and boil until a candy thermometer registers 248°F (firm ball stage). Pour the syrup into the measure to stop the cooking and then immediately pour a small amount of syrup over the whites with the mixer off. Immediately beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Stop the mixer and add a larger amount of syrup. Beat at high speed for 5 seconds. Continue with the remaining syrup. Lower the speed to medium, add the gelatin mixture, and beat on medium speed for 2 minutes. Decrease the speed to low and continue beating until the bottom of the bowl is no longer warm to the touch, about 10 minutes.

8-Use a large balloon whisk or silicone spatula to fold one-third of the meringue into the lemon cream. Repeat twice more until all of the meringue is folded into the lemon cream.

9- Spread two 3-foot-long pieces of parchment or waxed paper on the counter. Position the cake so the top is facing up. Using a long serrated knife, remove and discard the brown top crust. Turn the cake bottom up and split it into 4 even layers. After cutting each layer, use two spatulas to lift a layer off the cake and put it on the parchment or waxed paper. Arrange the layers in the order you cut them so it’s easy to assemble the cake.

10-Lightly oil the inside of a clean 10-inch (16-cup) 2-piece metal tube pan. (EDIT - do NOT grease the pan. Your cake will not rise nicely. Sorry for the bad information here!)

11- Spread one-quarter of the filling on the bottom of the pan. Place the smallest cake ring on top of the filling. Spread about one-third of the remaining lemon filling on top. Top with the next cake layer. Spread on half of the remaining filling. Repeat with the third cake layer and remaining filling. Top with the last cake layer and lightly press it down. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 12 hours or overnight.

12- To unmold, wet a kitchen towel under very hot water and wring out the excess. Wipe the sides and bottom of the pan to help release the cake smoothly.

13- Set the pan on top of a canister that’s smaller than the pan’s removable bottom and higher than the pan’s sides, and gently press down on the sides of the pan. If it doesn’t slide down easily, apply more heat to the sides.

14-Run a long offset spatula between the bottom of the cake and the pan. Run a wire cake tester or wooden skewer around the inner tube. Invert the cake onto a serving plate and remove the tube portion of the pan. Slice and serve the cake.

Classic Angel Food Cake

Vegetable oil for the pan
1-1/2 cups superfine sugar
3-3/4 oz. (1 cup) sifted cake flour
1/4 tsp. table salt
2 cups egg whites (from about 16 large eggs), at room temperature
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. cream of tartar
4 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat the oven to 350°F. Lightly oil the inside of a 10-inch (16- cup) 2-piece metal tube pan.

2- In a small bowl, whisk 3/4 cup of the sugar, the flour, and salt until evenly combined. Sift the remaining 3/4 cup sugar onto a piece of waxed paper.

3- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy, about 1 minute. Turn off the mixer and add the lemon juice and cream of tartar. Increase the speed to medium high and beat until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Gradually beat in the sifted sugar and continue beating on medium-high speed until very stiff peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in the vanilla.

4- One-quarter at a time, sift the flour mixture over the whites and, with a large balloon whisk, fold it in quickly but gently. It’s not necessary to incorporate every speck until the last addition of the flour.

5- Using an offset spatula, spread a thin layer of the cake batter onto the sides of the prepared pan to ensure smooth sides. Pour the remaining batter into the pan. Run a knife through the batter to eliminate air bubbles and smooth the surface.

6- Bake until golden-brown, a wire cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, and the cake springs back when lightly pressed, 30 to 40 minutes. (A wooden skewer will still have a few moist crumbs clinging to it.) During baking, the center will rise about 2 inches above the pan but will sink to almost level with the pan when done. The surface will have deep cracks, like a soufflé.

7- Immediately invert the cake: If your pan has feet, simply invert it onto the feet. Otherwise, invert the pan onto a long-necked soda or wine bottle, or a large inverted metal funnel that fits into the tube opening to suspend it well above the counter (if using a soda or wine bottle, fill it with sugar, salt, or marbles to keep it from tipping). Cool the cake completely in the pan, about 1-1/2 hours.

8- Loosen the sides of the cake with a long metal spatula and remove the cake (still on the tube section) from the sides of the pan. Loosen the cake from the bottom and tube with the spatula or a thin, sharp knife. (A wire cake tester works well around the tube. To keep the sides attractive, press the spatula firmly against the sides of the pan, moving the spatula up and down as you go around.) Invert the cake onto a flat plate or work surface covered with plastic wrap.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Whoever wrote the line "lazy days of summer" obviously didn't have children. There's nothing lazy about summer when it involves taking kids to swim practice, going to swim meets, working in Vacation Bible School, teaching a child to ride a bike and to swim, ferrying children to friends' houses, or putting together birthday parties for the summer babies. Where in that tangled web of to-do's is there time to have a family sit-down dinner?

Sadly, often there is no time. But rather than grab a meal to go at the drive-through, with a little forethought you can take your sit-down meal along. Crowded schedule does not have to equal empty calories.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the orthodontist (another of my summer to-do's, getting braces on my daughter) and found this recipe in a Family Fun magazine. I was taken with the concept of dinner to go - pizza all wrapped up in a tidy bundle. Simple to make, easy to pack, eagerly eaten. Just what I need for swim meets or spur of the moment picnics.

Pizza Scones
- adapted from Family Fun

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup fine cornmeal
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 cup (4 oz) shredded mozarella
1/3 cup finely chopped pepperoni (optional)
2 large eggs
3/4 cups buttermilk

1- Heat oven to 375 deg. F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2- Place tomatoes in medium bowl and cover with boiling water. let Stand for 30 minutes, then drain the water and stir in the cheese and pepperoni.

3- In a food processor, mix the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, basil, oregano and salt. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Pour the mixture into a large bowl and set aside.

4- In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk. Add the tomato mixture and stir.

5- Pour the wet ingredients into the flour mixture and stir until it forms a sticky dough. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead the dough until it holds together, about 5 times. Divide the dough in half and pat each half into a 1-inch thick disk. Slice each disk into 4 wedges.

6- Place the wedges on the prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake 15- 20 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Note: To make 12 smaller scones, reduce bake time to 10-15 minutes.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Reduced Guilt

As a child I adored doughnuts. I loved the pillowy softness of raised doughnuts, the super-sweet sugary icing, and, of course, the sprinkles. My very favorite doughnut, though, was a Bismark, a raised doughnut with a raspberry jelly filling. I'd get quite cross if I got a lemon-filled one, by accident, so I'd carefully look for the reddened exit wound before making my selection.

As I grew up a bit, my tastes changed. I found maple bars too cloying, chocolate icing not very chocolatey, and too my surprise, I found that the formerly spurned cake doughnuts were not bad at all. So long as they were not dry day-olds, they, too, could be delicious.

But also as I grew up and sampled many doughnuts, I grew out. Eventually I realized that a lifestyle that included a lot of doughnuts did not include buttoning the top button on my jeans, so I gave up doughnuts. To me, they just weren't worth the calories. Every once in a blue moon, I'd yearn for a doughnut, buy one, take a bite, and be done.

But what if I could have that delicious doughnut flavor without frying? In a muffin? Muffins are healthy, right? That was the train of thought I took when I spied the latest temptation from King Arthur's Kitchen. It looked insanely delicious, but it lacked something....filling!

I ladled a teapoon of marionberry jam in the batter, hoping that it wouldn't sink or make the whole muffin gooey. It worked perfectly! It was a hidden surprise that elevated the muffin from really good to ohmygoshthisiswonderful (mumbled through a mouthful of crumbs).

Next time I make them I think I'll increase the jam to a tablespoon. That will mean that there will be a bit of batter left over, making perhaps 15 muffins instead of 12, but I think it'll be worth the extra hassle.

Jam-Filled Doughnut Muffins
- adapted from King Arthur Flour

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 to 1 1/4 teaspoons ground nutmeg, to taste
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 2/3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 cup milk
1/4 cup favorite jam (or more, as desired)

3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons cinnamon sugar

1- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Lightly grease a standard muffin tin.

2- In a medium-sized mixing bowl, cream together the butter, vegetable oil, and sugars till smooth. Add the eggs, beating to combine.

3- Stir in the baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, salt, and vanilla.

4- Stir the flour into the butter mixture alternately with the milk, beginning and ending with the flour and making sure everything is thoroughly combined.

5- Spoon the batter into the tins, filling them about halfway. Carefully spoon a teaspoon of jam into the center of each well. Spoon the remaining batter over the tops of each muffin, making sure the jam blob is totally covered and sealed in.

6- Bake the muffins for 15 to 17 minutes, or until they're a pale golden brown and a cake tester inserted near the center of one of the center muffins comes out clean.

7- Remove them from the oven, and let them cool for a couple of minutes, or until you can handle them. While they're cooling, melt the butter for the topping (this is easily done in the microwave). I used a small heat-proof bowl with a rounded bottom (like a wok shape). Put the cinnamon sugar in a similar bowl.

8- Holding the muffins by the base, dip the tops of muffins into the melted butter, then dip them in the cinnamon-sugar.

9- Serve warm, or cool on a rack and wrap airtight. Store for a day or so at room temperature. ( I stored mine in a covered container and they stayed moist and delicious for three days).
Yield: 12 muffins.

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Bit Of Business

I've been sick all week, so I don't have the energy to put up much of a post. Just wanted to put up a few notices.

First of all, there are still 2 days over at Simple Bites and its affiliates to enter to win awesome prizes. Check it out!
simple living block party
And, in my last post, I forgot to award myself a High Five- I Did It! badge for taking on the macaron challenge. With Helen's excellent instructions, they weren't that difficult, really. I've made them twice already. So, if the macaron is on your "to tackle" list, I encourage you to give it a go and earn a High Five for yourself.

Have a fabulous weekend and a safe Fourth of July!