Monday, December 20, 2010

Sausage Raisin Stuffing

Sausage. Raisins. Bread. And other good stuff.

I realize that stuffing feels like a Thanksgiving food, but if you like to throw a more formal Christmas celebration, consider this newish take on the usual stuffing. (Or dressing, I guess, if you're not stuffing a bird -- and I don't.)

This recipe from Real Simple is a little bit vegetabley, a little bit buttery, a lot bit good. The recipe calls for golden raisins, I went with the regular old ones. The world kept on turning.

Sausage Raisin Stuffing
  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick), plus more for the dish and foil
  • 1 small loaf country bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 12 cups)
  • 3/4 pound pound Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 4 leeks (white and light green parts), chopped
  • 4 carrots, cut into small matchsticks
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
Heat oven to 375° F. Butter a 3-quart baking dish. Place the bread on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast, tossing once, until golden, 12 to 15 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl.

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking it up, until browned, 7 minutes. Add to the bread.

Wipe out the skillet and melt the butter over medium heat. Add the leeks, carrots, and ½ teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the broth and raisins; bring to a boil. Add to the bread.

Add the parsley and eggs to the bread mixture and toss to combine. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Cover loosely with buttered foil and bake for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden, 15 to 20 minutes.

The food: Sausage raisin stuffing
The verdict: Destined to become a Christmas classic

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hot from the oven: Baked donuts

Plain baked donuts, ready for glaze. Or a glass of milk.

I've got a small kitchen, so I try to stick to the basics and must-haves when it comes to kitchen gadgets. And a donut pan is not a must-have. But it is fun. So when offered to send me something from the store to try out, I made an exception to my basics-and-must-haves rule.

The Fox Run non-stick donut pan is a pretty decent piece of bakewear. It's got a good weight (not so flimsy you'd bend it while you're scrubbing out donut crumbs, not so heavy it's annoying to hold while you fill it) and I haven't had any sticking issues, so it lives up to the non-stick name. My one complaint would be that the wells are a tad small. My recipe for a half-dozen donuts produced more batter than could be baked. And keep in mind that if you want to feed a crowd (or just a few very enthusiastic donut eaters), you'll need a couple of these.

If you're a real Krispy Kreme fanatic, I know baked donuts sound like heresy. I'll be honest; you're never going to mistake them for their fried brethren. But if you want hot donuts in a flash with a little bit healthier twist, this is a nice pan to have hanging around.

As far as recipes go, I recommend checking out King Arthur Flour. Between their tasty mixes and the recipes on their blog, you're sure to find the perfect batter for your donut pan. (And there's no shame in using a mix!) For the donuts pictured at the top of this post, I used this recipe (mixing a little whole-wheat pastry flour with plain old all-purpose). I didn't frost mine because I thought they were pretty good as is, but a little melted chocolate or a citrusy glaze would be great, I bet.

The pan: Fox Run non-stick donut pan
The verdict: A nice little pan for the donut-lover in everyone

Sunday, November 7, 2010

When speed baking doesn't pay: Pumpkin cranberry scones

As they say on Arrested Development, I've made a huge tiny mistake.

Check out these pumpkin cranberry scones. They're from a recipe from the good folks at King Arthur Flour. And they would have turned out great had I not been speed baking and used baking soda instead of baking powder.

See what I mean? Huge tiny mistake. Tiny because they both look the same. They both kind of do the same thing. They both have "baking" in the name. But huge because a tablespoon of one in your scones makes them puffy. And a tablespoon of the other makes them taste like soap.

I'm happy to report I've made them since and with the right ingredients, they're mighty tasty. Find the recipe over at King Arthur. (I used cranberries in my version--their recipe calls for crystallized ginger or chocolate chips, both of which sound excellent.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall food: Cranberry oatmeal bars

Fall has finally found its way to North Carolina and I'm baking accordingly. I see some pumpkin- and apple-based foods in my future.

My first fall treat: oatmeal cranberry bars. They contain--wait for it--both oatmeal and cranberry, as you may have guessed, and they've got a subtle orange flavor, too, thanks to a little zest and fresh juice.

This is a recipe from Cooking Light, which means it's not as bad for you as, say, caramel hot fudge peanut sundaes, but I've found that Cooking Light keeps the calorie counts down by recommending tiny portions. For instance, recipe is made in an 11x7-inch pan and is supposed to make 24 servings. You'd better just give me four right now.

Oatmeal Cranberry Bars

  • 4.5 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1 cup)
  • 1 cup quick-cooking oats
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
  • Cooking spray

  • 1 1/3 cups dried cranberries (about 6 ounces)
  • 3/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 1 large egg white, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 325°. To prepare crust, spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 5 ingredients (through cinnamon) in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle butter and juice over flour mixture, stirring until moistened (mixture will be crumbly). Reserve 1/2 cup oat mixture. Press remaining oat mixture into the bottom of an 11 x 7–inch baking dish coated with cooking spray.

To prepare filling, combine cranberries, sour cream, granulated sugar, and remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well. Spread cranberry mixture over prepared crust; sprinkle reserved oat mixture evenly over filling. Bake at 325° for 40 minutes or until edges are golden. Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.

The food: Oatmeal Cranberry Bars
The verdict: Wilford Brimley says you should eat them

Monday, September 27, 2010

Stretching Summer: Strawberry Tart

It might be fall, but I'm still getting summer recipes out of my system. Including this swell strawberry tart, adapted from Gourmet Magazine. (Yes, I know, Gourmet has been out of print for a year. I'm a recipe hoarder.)

If you've got a few summer strawberries left in your neck of the woods, I suggest you put them to work in this gem, which also features a creamy mascarpone cheese layer.

Strawberry Mascarpone Tart

For tart shell
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Rounded 1/4 tsp salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
For filling
  • 1 1/2 lb strawberries (about 1 1/2 qt), trimmed and halved lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 lb mascarpone (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 3/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pulse together in a food processor the flour, sugar, salt and butter until the mixture looks like coarse meal. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolk, vanilla, lemon juice and water, then drizzle over the flour mixture and pulse.

With floured hands, knead the dough a few times, then shape into a 5-inch disk. Place it in the center of a 10-inch tart pan. Cover with plastic wrap and push the dough to evenly cover bottom and side of pan. Prick with a fork all over and place in the freezer for about 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Line tart shell with foil and fill with rice or pie weights. Bake until the side is set, about 20 minutes (the edge will be pale golden). Remove foil and rice and continue to bake until shell is deep golden all over, about 20 minutes more. Cool in pan, about 45 minutes.

While the tart shell bakes and cools, mix the strawberries and sugar and let stand about 30 minutes. Strain the berry juice into a small sauce pan and cook until thickened and reduced. Allow to cool.

Whisk together mascarpone, confectioners sugar, lemon juice, zest, vanilla, and a pinch of salt until stiff.

When tart shell is cool, spread mascarpone mixture evenly in cooled tart shell, then top with strawberries. Drizzle with strawberry glaze.

Okay, that's my last summer recipe for a while. I promise next time I'll have some fall-appropriate eats. I'll also have in the near future a kitchen equipment review, with a to-be-determined gadget courtesy of CSN Stores. They've got a wide selection of kitchen essentials, from dining tables to souffle dishes. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to testing out a new toy.

The food: Cheesy strawberry tart
The verdict: Worth postponing fall for

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tango with Mango: Fresh Salsa

This Monday marked the first official day of summer, so I'm celebrating with summer's official food: salsa.

I love salsa like some people love their immediate families. My absolute favorite salsa is Newman's Own mango. Paul Newman knew what he was doing for sure. A few months ago, I wrote to the good people at Newman's Own and informed them that if I wasn't already married to Ben, I would probably propose to their salsa. A customer service representative emailed me back and said she hoped Ben wasn't the jealous type because she was sending me the coupons. Ben managed not to be too threatened.

And while salsa in the jar is good, fresh salsa is better. Here's my version. I went light on the tomato because I didn't want to overwhelm the other fruits, but experiment and see what tickles the old taste buds.

Fresh Mango Salsa
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and diced
  • 1 to 2 cups fresh pineapple, diced
  • 1/2 cup onion, diced
  • 4 T. scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 to 2 T. fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 to 3 T. rice vinegar
  • 1 T. honey
  • 1 c. black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
Mix it all together. Give it an hour in the fridge. Procure some chips. And that's it.

The food: Fresh mango salsa
The verdict: Makes Paul proud. Does not make Ben jealous.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What Did You Put in This? The Black-and-White Brownie

When our small group Bible study got together for a cookout earlier this month, I needed some non-fussy desserts.  I ended up making Karly's eclair cake (easy! tasty!) and a batch of black-and-white brownies.  They're basically blondies with melted and cooled white chocolate creamed into the butter and sugar mixture.

It was an interesting idea, but I can't say I've become a fan.  The white chocolate taste was kind of faint -- just enough to make you say, "Huh, what's that?"  But not really in a good way.

If you'd like to experience the "what is going on here?" brownie, you can find the recipe, courtesy of King Arthur Flour, here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Daffodil Cake (no, there aren't real flowers in the recipe)

For those of you who live in regions where early May is still spring and not blazing-hot summer (sorry, Raleigh readers), you might want to celebrate the season with a daffodil cake. It's angel food cake with a denser bottom layer (you add in egg yolks) and an orange glaze.  (Which is always my favorite part. I've been known to lick the serving platter after the cake is gone.  But I do it very demurely.)

If you're not up to making your own angel food cake batter or if you're pressed for time, you could cheat and use a box mix.  Angel food isn't tough to make from scratch, though, so you might want to give it a try.

Daffodil Cake
  • Your favorite angel food batter
  • 6 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 t. orange extract
  • 3 T. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3. c. orange juice concentrated, thawed
  • 1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Make the angel food batter.  Set aside about 3 cups; pour the rest into an ungreased tube pan.

Add egg yolks and orange extract to reserved batter and fold together.  Spoon into tube pan over plain batter.  Bake until toothpick in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.  Cool and unmold.

To make the glaze, mix together the cream cheese and orange juice concentrate.  Whisk in the sugar.  Drizzle over cooled cake.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Hopping on the Food Blogger Bandwagon: Macarons

If you read food blogs regularly, you're no doubt aware of the macaron craze. Could you respect me as a blogger if I didn't make my own attempt at these little confections?  No?  I didn't think so.

In that case, here they are: raspberry and cheese-filled macarons.  I used a great recipe from Tartelette, skipping the pink food coloring and substituting cream cheese for the mascarpone.  (Sorry, Tartelette.  I know cream cheese isn't very French, but I've got a lot of it.)

And if the macaron trend has somehow caught you unawares, here are the quick facts: Puffy little meringue cookies made with ground almonds and aged egg whites. Tasty fillings, often chocolate. Piped batter, often messy. Fun to make, fun to eat. They kind of fall apart in your mouth.

If you're serious about macarons, you might want to invest in a scale -- flour and such can be kind of persnickety, so you'll get a much more consistent end-result if you weigh, rather than measure, your ingredients for baked goods. Food scales are cheap, and I'm sure you'll find all sorts of other uses for one, like figuring out whether that letter needs extra postage or if you really got your full 13.5 ounces of creamed corn like the Jolly Green Giant says you did.

The food: Macarons
The verdict: Ooh la la!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Genius of the Mini Cheesecake

The best present I got for Christmas last year was a membership to Sam's Club.  Yes, I know -- Sam Walton was kind of a bully.  Yes, I've seen Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price.  Yes, it's weird that they make you flash your i.d. card at the door.  Flaws and all, I like shopping at Sam's Club.

Thanks to my new love of bulk buying, I'm now in possession of a three-pound (count 'em, three) block of cream cheese.  Philadelphia brand, of course.  Which explains why I've been on a cheesecake kick as of late.

The first cheesecake project: raspberry mini cheesecakes from Cook's Country.  These little delights are genius.  Why?  Because they're tasty.  And because they're fast and easy.  And tasty.  Did I mention that?

I could eat cheesecake every day, but I'm not much on lining pans and setting up water baths and crushing graham crackers and baking forever and then waiting for the thing to cool in the oven.  The trick with the mini cheesecakes is that they use whole butter cookies in place of crumb crusts (I told you, genius!) and they bake quick because they're small.

I also like the individual portions (no cutting) and the cupcake liners (no mess).

Raspberry Mini Cheesecakes (adapted from Cook's Country)
  • 18 round shortbread cookies (like Keebler Sandies)
  • 2/3 c. seedless raspberry jam
  • 12 oz. cream cheese, softened 
  • 2/3 c. sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 large eggs
Heat the oven to 300 degrees.  Line 18 muffin cups with cupcake liners, then put a cookie into the bottom of each.  Put a dollop of jam on each cookie.  (There will be jam left over.)

Using an electric mixer, beat together cream cheese and condensed milk, scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally.  Add eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth.

Divide batter among muffin cups.  Bake until set, about 20 minutes.  Cool tins on wire racks.  Once cupcakes have reached room temperature, refrigerate about 1 hour.

Microwave remaining jam until thinned, about 30 seconds.  Glaze the top of each cheesecake with jam and serve.

Makes 18 mini cheesecakes.

The food: Raspberry mini cheesecakes
The verdict: Mini cakes, mucho tastiness

Friday, March 12, 2010

Oh, Honey! Beekeeper's Jezebel Sauce


I like sauces.  Of all kinds.  Barbecue.  Plum.  Butter.  Steak.  The more sauce the better.

I also like making sauces -- because they're easy and because they can transform the usual stuff you have in the fridge into a taste explosion!  Yes, the exclamation point was absolutely necessary there.

My latest sauce: Beekeeper's Jezebel Sauce from Southern Living.  I'm not sure why they call it that, but I like it.  The name's got zip.

As does the sauce.  I used it on biscuits, then on roast chicken, then on egg rolls.  It was good everywhere.

And I think you'll agree.

Beekeeper's Jezebel Sauce
  • 1 15-oz. jar apricot preserves (no big fan of apricot, I used peach)
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 T. horseradish
  • 1 T. fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 T. Dijon mustard (I used a regular old spicy brown -- sorry French mustard lovers)
  • 1 tsp. fresh chopped thyme
  • 1/4 t. dried crushed red pepper
Mix it all together in a small saucepan.  Cook over medium heat, stirring often, about three minutes.  Use immediately and store leftovers in the fridge for up to one week.

Easy!  And yummy!  (More necessary exclamation points.)

The food: Beekeeper's Jezebel Sauce
The verdict: Worth exclaiming over

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kitchen-Clean-Out Soup: Chicken Noodle with a Chinese Twist

Encouraged by The Kitchn and Re-Nest to clean out my fridge and pantry, I made what I'm calling a Chinese chicken noodle soup this week.  Chicken stock, the last of the rice vinegar, leftover chicken, chopped ginger, one on-its-way-out carrot, my final green onion, some rice noodles and a dash each of fish sauce and sesame oil made for a tasty supper.

I like soups because you can just throw in whatever you like.  And usually it works.

Anyone else have a clean-out-the-kitchen soup recipe to recommend?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Say Cheese: Make the Lee Brothers' Buttermilk Cheese at Home

A while ago, my buddy Toby told me his wife Jennifer had found a recipe for me to try: buttermilk cheese.

I was totally on board.  The recipe was from Matt and Ted Lee, two Southern chefs I wholeheartedly dig, and was published by Martha Stewart, whose standards are nothing if not exacting.  Plus, who wouldn't like the idea of making cheese at home?

And whipping up a little batch of cheese was fun.  My turned out a little bland, so next time I'd probably add a bit more salt.  Martha and the Lee boys also suggest variations, including lemon cheese and herb cheese, that would help perk things up a bit.  I will also say that my cheese turned out a little dry, but that could be because I really got into the squeezing-out the-whey step.

Oh, and if you don't have fancy-pants cheesecloth, paper towels will do just fine.

Buttermilk Cheese
  • 1 quart whole milk
  • 1 1/2 cups whole or low-fat buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
Line a colander or strainer with a few layers of 12-inch squares of cheesecloth or paper towels.  Set it in the sink.

Combine milk, buttermilk and salt in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan; heat over medium-high heat until mixture has separated into white curds and translucent whey, about 8 minutes. If using lowfat buttermilk, separation occurs at about 180 degrees and the curds will clump together readily. If using whole buttermilk, separation occurs closer to the boiling point, about 212 degrees, and the curds are finer-grained. When using whole buttermilk, let curds and whey stand off heat for about 3 minutes after separation, so the curds cling together and facilitate the straining step.

Ladle the contents of the saucepan into the prepared colander. Let the whey drain, 1 to 2 minutes. Lift the four corners of the cheesecloth and gather them together. Gently twist the gathered cloth over the cheese and press out any excess whey.

Cheese can be unwrapped immediately and served warm.  It can also be cooled to room temperature or refrigerated until cool.   Cheese can be refrigerated up to 2 days. Remove from refrigerator and let stand for 10 minutes at room temperature before serving.

The food: Buttermilk cheese
The verdict: The cheese stands alone, in a moderately tasty manner

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sweets for your Sweetie: Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars

Looking for a sweet treat to make your Valentine's Day sweetheart?  May I recommend salted chocolate caramel bars?

Adapted from a recipe on Lisa is Cooking, the bars are like grown-up Twix, with a surprising sprinkle of sea salt.  The creamy chocolate ganache, the chewy caramel and the crunchy shortbread layer are an interesting mixture of textures and tastes.  I think you'll dig them.  And so will your Valentine.

One note: My shortbread fell short of my expectations.  Maybe I baked it too long or didn't add quite enough butter.  In any case, when I was cutting the bars, the crust crumbled and fell away in quite a few spots.  My mom (a genius) called just as I was cutting the bars to take to a party — she suggested I cut them into small squares and serve them in mini-muffin papers to disguise the disfigured underside.  It worked.  Dessert saved.

Another note: The caramel takes forever to make.  I recommend stirring with one hand and holding a good book with the other.

Salted Chocolate Caramel Bars
Shortbread crust:
  • 2 c. all-purpose flour
  • 2 t. baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar

  • 1 c. (2 sticks) butter, cut into small pieces
  • 3/4 c. light brown sugar
  • 4 T. light corn syrup
  • 2 14-oz. cans sweetened condensed milk

Chocolate ganache:
  • 8 oz. milk chocolate, chopped
  • 4 T. butter, cut into pieces
  • Sea salt, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line a 9-inch by 13-inch baking pan with parchment paper.

For the shortbread, combine flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Cream butter and sugar, then add in flour mixture.  Press dough into an even layer in the prepared pan.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Cool completely.

For the caramel, combine butter, sugar, corn syrup and sweetened condensed milk in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer, stirring constantly, until caramel reaches soft-ball stage (about 245 degrees).  Remove from heat and pour over cooled shortbread crust.  Spread evenly and allow to cool completely.

For the chocolate ganache, combine the butter and chocolate in a large, heat-proof bowl or double boiler.  Heat mixture over simmering water until smooth.  Pour over cooled caramel and spread evenly.  Sprinkle with sea salt.

Once the ganache cools, cut into bars or squares.  Sprinkle again with salt, if desired.

The food: Salted chocolate caramel bars
The verdict: Guaranteed to make your Valentine swoon, whatever that means

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Marshmallow Fluff: The Cupcake Baker's Best Friend

I love a good cupcake.  But more than a good cupcake, I love a good frosting.  I spend a lot of time over at Cupcakes Take the Cake, admiring the professional decorating jobs, wishing I could get my frosting to pile on fluffy and thick like they do.  I have a couple of tried-and-true recipes, but while they taste good, they don't have much body to them, so big, puffy piles of piped-on frosting just don't happen for me.

Until now.  I think I've discovered a frosting hack.

And it's Marshmallow Fluff.

I had half of a container left over from Christmas fudge making and I needed to use it up, so I combined about 8 oz. of Fluff with about 3/4 c. softened butter and added powdered sugar and vanilla to taste (probably about 1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar and a 1/2 t. of vanilla) and mixed with my faithful KitchenAid stand mixer.  It was good!  Rich and not too sugary.  But more than that, it was really fluffy and I could spread and pipe to my heart's content.  I'd say it made enough to frost 18-24 cupcakes, depending on how generous you're feeling.

I think the Marshmallow Fluff brand of marshmallow creme is made in Massachusetts, so maybe it's more of a regional treat, because I had a tough time finding it here in North Carolina.  In Maine, I remember flavored Fluff -- raspberry and strawberry, I think.  I'd love to get my hands on that for frosting purposes.  In the meantime, I think I'll experiment with orange extract.

Let's hear it for Fluff, the baker's best friend.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Souped Up: Slow-Cooker Black Bean Soup

Buying canned soup makes me feel like a tiny, blue-haired lady with a walker and a fist full of coupons.  Why, you ask?  Because before I put it in my cart, I crook my finger at the soup shelf and say, usually in a very scratchy voice, "Two dollars for one can of soup?  Are you kidding me?  What is this world coming to?  Mwwahhh."

Maybe it's just me, but prepared soup is ridiculously expensive for what it is.  And that's why I'm working on my own black bean soup recipe.  You hear that, Progresso?  I'm done with you.

I like black beans for many reasons.  First, they are really healthy.  Second, they are really tasty.  Third, they are really cheap.

Now, let me preface this recipe by saying it is still a work in progress.  And let me also say that it makes about 80 gallons of soup.  So if you happen to be the only black bean soup eater in the house, be prepared to freeze.  A lot.

Slow-Cooker Black Bean Soup
  • 1 lb. dry black beans, soaked overnight and rinsed
  • 6-7 c. chicken or turkey stock
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 t. chile powder
  • 2 t. cumin
  • 2-3 t. hot sauce
  • 1 T. prepared mustard
  • 2 T. Worchestershire sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Sour cream, shredded cheese and green onions (optional for garnish)
Combine the beans, stock, onions, garlic and seasonings in a slow cooker.  Heat on high for 5-6 hours or low for 8 hours.  Allow to cool, then puree about one-third of the mixture.  For better flavor, refrigerate overnight and reheat before serving.

I'll be honest: This soup didn't have the zing I was hoping for.  But it's a good start.  I'll keep working on it.

The food: Black bean soup
The verdict: The blue-haired old lady in me approves

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Crab Cakes You'd Run Miles For (But, Thankfully, Don't Have To)

I like to watch cooking shows while I run on the treadmill.  You could look at this one of two ways.  First, "What a nice way to keep yourself entertained while you exercise."  Or, second, "Maybe if you quit watching cooking shows and making the food from them you wouldn't have to run as much."

But on my last run, I discovered a recipe that is both tasty and good for you.  So if you've resolved to start eating a little healthier -- or if you'd like to be able to spend less time on the treadmill -- these crab cakes might be for you.

I will also say that if another one of your resolutions is to scale back your spending a little, these little patties are just fine with krab (a much cheaper look-alike and close-enough taste-alike alternative to crab).

The recipe comes from Ellie Krieger, who, to keep things nutritional, doesn't use a whole lot of binder in the cakes--just a little egg, some breadcrumbs, and no mayo.  They're still tasty, but you may find they fall apart on you.  Some others who've tried the recipe suggest putting all of the bread crumbs into the mixture (rather than using part of them in the mixture and part as a coating).

Ellie also offers a recipe for "smarter tartar."  I'm generally against eating foods with rhyming names, but I made an exception in this case.  I gave it two crab claws up, although Ben would have preferred it with sweet pickles (which are traditional in tartar sauce, I think) rather than sour.  The sour were just fine by me.

Crab Cakes and Sour-Pickle Tartar Sauce (adapted from Ellie Krieger's recipe)

For the crab cakes:

  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten 
  • 5 teaspoons brown mustard
  • 3 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 lbs. lump crab meat (real or imposter)
  • 1 3/4 dry breadcrumbs
For the tartar sauce:
  • 3/4 cup plain yogurt, drained of some liquid
  • 1/4 cup light mayo (we like Duke's -- it's zingy!)
  • 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped baby dill pickles
  • 2 tablespoons capers
  • Pinch of salt
For the crab cakes, mix together the egg, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, crab boil seasoning, hot sauce, bell pepper and scallion. Gently fold in the crab and about 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs, salt and pepper.

Shape the crab mixture into 16 patties, then coat each patty in the remaining bread crumbs.

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Spray a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray and bake patties for 10 minutes.  Flip, then cook another 10 minutes.  Serve with tartar sauce.

For the tartar sauce, drain some of the liquid from the yogurt by placing in in cheesecloth-lined bowl and refrigerating overnight.  Mix the thickened yogurt with the remaining ingredients.  Serve.

Makes 16 crab cakes and just over a cup of tartar sauce.

The food: Crab cakes and tartar sauce
The verdict: Grab some crab, it's fab