Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Big Secret: Make-Ahead Coconut Rice

Food friends, I have a secret to tell you.

I never miss an episode of America's Next Top Model.

Okay, that secret just kind of snuck out. The secret I really meant to share is this: I don't cook that much during the week. I love being in the kitchen, but by the time I get home from work, my stomach is rumbling to the tune of "Born to Be Wild" and I just can't wait another minute to eat.

My options, then, are either to eat whatever's hanging around (pickles, cereal boxes) or to have pre-made meals that are ready to go.

Pre-made meals it is.

And here's one of my favorite make-aheads: coconut jasmine rice.

We eat a lot of rice. It's great with beans, with stir-fry, with a little salt and lotsa rooster sauce. But it takes a bit of time to cook. That's lame fact number one. Lame fact number two? Leftover rice is usually dry and crusty.

But not rice made with coconut milk. Which is why I love coconut jasmine rice. You don't get any fruity or tropical flavors from the milk -- just moisture and richness. So you can make your rice days ahead, and it's just as tasty on Thursday as it was on Monday. Not crusty. Not even a little.

There's no perfect formula, but on my last batch of rice, I mixed:

  • 2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed
  • 14 oz. coconut milk
  • 3 c. water
  • A little salt
Then I brought it all to a boil, covered it, turned it down and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. And that's that. Really good rice. Whenever you want it. So you don't have to eat cereal boxes.

Okay, I spilled my secret. So tell me:

What's your best tip for make-ahead meals?

What do you think about America's Next Top Model, the term "fierce" or noted fashion photographer Nigel Barker? Be honest, friends.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Grapefruit: Sunshine in a rind

Weather-wise, it's a pretty lousy day here. The good news? I've got a bowl of the sunshiniest citrus in the world: pink grapefruit. Does anything taste like warm weather the way a grapefruit does? I think not.

I've got a few for eating, a few for making cupcakes with, and I think I could spare one or two for Joy the Baker's grapefruit honey yogurt scones.

What about you -- what kind of foods do you think taste like sunshine?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

We have a winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered the America's Test Kitchen cookbook giveaway!

And the winner is:


Whitney, I left a comment on your blog. Contact me with you address to get your copy of Blue Ribbon Desserts.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mini Carrot Cakes: Tiny Treats, Big Taste

Win the cookbook this recipe came from! There's still time to enter my giveaway. Contest closes March 23.

* * *

In addition to being a fan of food, I also like to run. The two, actually, are related. Because the more I run, the more I can eat.

I'm starting to train for a race in May, and as part of that, I'm thinking more carefully about what I'm eating and I'm trying to sneak more veggies in wherever I can.

Which was all the justification I needed to bake carrot cake this weekend. This recipe comes from Blue Ribbon Desserts (from Cook's Country and America's Test Kitchen) and through March 23, you can win a copy of it through my giveaway.

Making carrot cake also makes me thankful for my food processor -- it's the way to go when it comes to shredding. And while the original recipe makes 12 full-size cupcakes, I've found that's about the right amount of batter to make 36 minis. They're the perfect size for popping in your mouth. On the run or otherwise. And they're easy to make. Really.

Mini Carrot Cupcakes
  • 8 T. butter, melted and cooled
  • 3/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1/2 t. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 t. ground nutmeg
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 8 oz. grated carrots
  • Your favorite cream cheese frosting
    (mix a little cream cheese, butter, powered sugar, and vanilla -- what could go wrong?)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease 3 12-cup mini muffin pans.

Whisk together the melted butter, sugars and eggs. Mix in the dry ingredients until combined. Fill the muffin pans and bake 12-15 minutes (or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean). Cool on a rack, then frost.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Raspberry Cheesecake Brownies and a Giveaway from America's Test Kitchen

UPDATE: The giveaway is now closed. Thanks to everyone who entered! Subscribe to the blog for future giveaways, contests and all-around food goodness.

Hi friends! Want to win a new cookbook from some of my favorite food experts? Keep reading!

So here's what I like best about Cook's Country magazine: it's not fussy food. I don't have to go to specialty stores for the ingredients, I don't have to learn fancy-pants cooking techniques. This is what real people eat.

But it's also really good. So I'm excited that the folks at America's Test Kitchen sent me one of Cook's Country's latest books: Blue Ribbon Desserts. And I'm extra excited that one of you lovely readers will be getting one, too!

If you love classic desserts (and if you don't, let's talk), this is the cookbook for you. Vintage, heirloom, whatever you want to call them -- these recipes stand the test of time.

Think of this as part cookbook, part science lesson. For every recipe, you get a little bit of back story about the development of the recipe. I love learning about what worked and what didn't for a particular food formula. I think it makes me a better cook (and baker) overall.

You also get clear step-by-step instructions. And, perhaps the best feature: the book is spiral bound (inside a hardback outer cover) so it opens perfectly flat. No need to use clothes pins to keep the pages open. Not that I do that.

So I've got two things for you today: a recipe and a chance to win Blue Ribbon Desserts (or one of the two other books from ATK that I posted about on Sunday).

First, the winning. To enter:
  1. If you don't already follow Please Pass the Pie, start.
  2. Leave a comment letting me know how you follow (via RSS, etc.) and which of the three books you'd like to win (Blue Ribbon Desserts, Light & Healthy 2011 or The Best One-Dish Suppers).
  3. Include a way for me to contact you. If I can't reach you through your own blog or blogger profile, you can leave an email address or a Twitter handle.

That's it! Easy. Also, this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. Sorry, foreign friends. And entries close at 11:59 p.m. EST on Wednesday, March 23. I'll pick a winner at random the next day.

UPDATE: Our winner was Whitney! Congratulations!

And now for the recipe. This one comes from the Bake Sale Cookies, Brownies and Bars chapter of Blue Ribbon Desserts.

Raspberry-Cream Cheese Brownies

For the filling:
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 t. vanilla extract
For the brownies:
  • 2/3 c. flour
  • 1/2 t. baking powder
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 8 T unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 1/2 c. raspberry jam
  • 1 1/4 c. sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 t. vanilla extract

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch pan. Blend all of the filling ingredients together in a food processor.

For the brownies, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Microwave the butter and chocolate together in short intervals, stirring frequently, until melted. Whisk in 1/4 c. of the jam and let cool slightly. Add the sugar, eggs and vanilla to the chocolate mixture. Whisk in the flour mixture until no white streaks are left.

Microwave the remaining jam until just warm; stir until smooth. Scrape half of the brownie batter into the pan. Dollop the cheese filling over the batter and spread evenly. Dollop the jam on the cheese mixture and use the tip of a knife to swirl. Spread the remainder of the brownie batter over the top.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few dry crumbs -- about 50 to 60 minutes. Let cool, then cut. Refrigerate.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Thai-Style Chicken and Rice and a Cookbook Review

I spend a lot of time reading recipes, and while I have a few trusted sources, the ones I like best often come from America's Test Kitchen. Why? Because they are incredibly reliable, thanks to diligent testing (as the name implies) by the recipe developer and the ATK team. (And because Christopher Kimball, fearless leader of the Kitchen, always wears a bowtie. But I digress.)

Which is why I'm pleased to be reviewing three America's Test Kitchen cookbooks (provided by ATK). And why I'm happy to offer all you fine readers a chance to win one later this week. (More about that later in the post.)

Light & Healthy 2011 is a well-rounded collection of (you guessed it) better-for-you recipes. It gives nutrition information for each recipe (something you don't normally get with ATK) and the instructions are easy to follow. It's broken up into 12 main sections, including appetizers, soups and stews, pizza and pasta, meat, breakfast, and even desserts (although when it comes to desserts, my personal philosophy is "Light, shmight -- go for the gusto").

The Best One-Dish Suppers is acompendium of, yes, one-dish suppers. I like the word "supper" because it feels cozy and comforting -- which is the kind of food this book focuses on. Dutch oven dinners, casseroles, one-pot pasta: how could you go wrong? Plus, for those of you who don't have a dish fairy like I do (his name is Ben and he is VERY good at what he does), one-dish suppers make cleaning up from the meal very easy. Maybe not as easy as eating the meal, but easy enough. The book gives great step-by-step details and even has sidebars on equipment recommendations and essential kitchen skills.

So what's not to like about these books? If I have one complaint, its the lack of color photos. I love to see what something SHOULD look like when I'm done (I think of it as aspirational cooking), so a few more pictures would have been most welcome. But there are plenty of illustrations and black-and-white inset photos to guide you, so fear not.

The recipe I made, Thai-style chicken and rice, comes from Light & Healthy 2011 (but it's also a one-dish meal, so it's really the best of both worlds). Please don't tell Mr. Kimball, but I made a few modifications -- not because I don't trust him but because I just didn't have all of the ingredients I needed on hand.

Thai-Style Chicken and Rice
Modified from a recipe from America's Test Kitchen
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 4 T fish sauce
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 t. canola oil
  • 1 c. brown rice, rinsed
  • 1 1/4 c. chicken broth
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 cups edamame
  • 2 t. lime juice

Heat the oven to 300 degrees. Combine half the garlic, 1 T ginger and fish sauce in a large bowl. Add chicken and toss to coat. Set aside.

Combine the oil, onion and pinch of salt in a dutch oven. Cover and cook over medium heat about 8 minutes, until onions soften. Stir in remaining garlic and ginger and the rice and cook about 30 seconds. Add the broth.

Place the chicken over the rice mixture. Bring to a simmer, then cover and transfer to the oven. Cook for about 40 minutes, then add carrots and edamame. Cover and continue to cook until most of the broth is absorbed -- 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven.

Transfer the chicken to a place. Cover the rice and allow to steam for about 10 minutes. Shred the chicken and stir into the rice. Plate and squeeze lime juice over each serving.

About 390 calories per 1 1/2 c. serving.

Now, about winning a cookbook of your own.

Later this week, I'll be reviewing a third cookbook from America's Test Kitchen. Check back in -- you'll have a chance to win your choice of any of the three books mentioned on this blog. Hold on to your bowties, folks.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Pour some (maple) sugar on me: Ben & Jerry's maple walnut ice cream

In Maine, where I grew up, March is the season for maple sugaring--a process I first witnessed during a fourth-grade field trip to a working historic homestead. We got a chance to check the taps and look in on the sugaring shack (after we did a little 1800s-era housework, like sweeping while wearing ruffled bonnets and emptying a few too-realistic-for-comfort chamberpots).

I don't currently have access to maple taps (or, thankfully, chamberpots) but I do keep plenty of syrup on hand. We are not an Aunt Jemima kind of household.

And I firmly believe that syrup is for more than just pancakes. That's why I was happy to test out a maple walnut ice cream recipe from two fellow New Englanders I call Ben and Jerry. Which is what everyone else calls them, too.

They recommend using Grade C syrup for this, which has a sharper maple flavor and is for cooking and baking, not table use. I used Grade A and lived to tell the story. I have a feeling Grade C is a little tougher to find than the lighter Grade A. If you've found it and used it, I'd love to hear what you think.

Most of Ben and Jerry's ice cream recipes start with a sweet cream base (and they suggest three ways to make it). I used a base made with raw eggs. If that weirds you out, you can also make a base by blending 2 cups of light cream with 1 cup of cold sweetened condensed milk.

Maple Walnut Ice Cream
Source: Ben & Jerry's Homemade Ice Cream & Dessert Book

  •  2 eggs
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 2 c. heavy cream
  • 1 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. maple syrup
  • 1/2. chopped walnuts

Whisk the eggs until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Gradually whisk in the sugar until completely blended, then mix in the cream and milk. Gradually add the maple syrup until blended.

Transfer the mixture to your ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions.

Just before the ice cream finishes freezing, add walnuts. Transfer to a plastic container and put in the freezer until firm.

The recipe makes a little more than a quart (or about 50 spoonfuls straight from the freezer, which is my preferred method of serving and consuming).

The food: Maple walnut ice cream
The verdict: Worth doing 1800s-era housework for