June 26, 2009

Grilled Pork - Circa 1995

There are a few dishes that I can remember my mom making over and over again when I was growing up.  Steamed broccoli with cheese sauce, fettucini alfredo, chocolate chip pizzas, and marinated pork on the grill.  None of them are gourmet, but they all remind me of childhood.  

This whole week has been really hot, and it's been killing me.  Ninety-degree weather is not supposed to happen in Minnesota until August, and then it is only supposed to be a day here or there - not for a whole week in June!  Mother Nature, I am not impressed.  

Earlier in the week we were hanging out on the beach, and I caught a whiff of somebody's grill.  The water and the grill and the heat instantly reminded me of the grilled pork my mom frequently made after a long summer day at the pool.  She would be in the house whipping up the rest of the meal, and I would man the grill, water bottle in hand.  I think I really just like to squirt water on the flames, and she would come out to check on the actual progression of the cooking, but I like to think that I played a part in cooking dinner.

All you need is Italian dressing and boneless pork loin.  Chicken would work as well.  

Start out by pouring a little Italian (pronounced "eye-talian" if your name is Matt) dressing into a dish or a plastic bag.  Add the pieces of pork and cover with more dressing.  I bought boneless pork loin that was about an inch thick.  If the thinner pieces are available, go for those.  Cover it and put in in the fridge to marinate for a few hours.

Throw them on the grill.  Easy, huh?

They should take about 5-7 minutes on each side.  I always get paranoid and have to slice into a piece to make sure it's done.  One of these days I'll learn...

We ate ours with salad and cheddar polenta while we cooled off in the air conditioning.  It really is summer.  

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June 23, 2009

Strawberry-Peach Frozen Yogurt

I have a frozen yogurt maker!  I have a frozen yogurt maker!  

And an ice cream maker.  And it moonlights as a frozen drink maker.  

It is wonderful, and I tried it out last week.  I wanted to make peach frozen yogurt and Matt wanted strawberry, so I made strawberry peach.  It's all about compromise.  I figured fruity frozen yogurt would be a good starting off point, and I will eventually get up the nerve (and calorie deficit) to make David Lebovitz's Candied Bacon Ice Cream.  

As for my fro yo recipe, it's about the most simple thing you could imagine.  I had been checking out a bunch of different recipes in various places and they all called for different things - from gelatin to cornstarch, evaporated milk to whole milk, plain yogurt to strawberry yogurt.  While I might experiment a little and see what kind of difference something like gelatin makes, I prefer to use the lowest number of ingredients.  Sadly for cornstarch, it did not make the cut.  

3 cups plain whole milk yogurt
1 cup strawberries
1 cup peaches
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place the fruit in a food processor, and hit the pulse button a few times until you have leettle pieces of fruit.  Not puree.  Pieces.  

Combine with the yogurt. 

Add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.  If you want a sweeter version, toss in a little sugar.  

Pour it into the ice cream maker, and let it do it's job for 20-30 minutes.  I just kind of guessed when the texture was right.  My stomach voiced its opinion as well.  

The old yogurt container makes a perfect storage container.  

The yogurt was pretty delightful for my first crack at frozen dessert making since I was 8.  I'm still working a bit on achieving the perfect texture and taste.  I didn't include any sugar to make it a little healthier, but a tad more sweetness probably wouldn't hurt.  More experiments to come...

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June 21, 2009

Grandma's Bagels - Round 2

In the week leading up to Grandma's Marathon, I gave my grandma's bagels another shot.  After a not-s0-successful attempt at bagel-making several months ago, I gave a little thought to what might have gone wrong and made a couple changes.  This time around I made sure the yeast activated before adding in the flour, and I added more water than the original recipe called for.

While the end result was much improved, the level of stress was pretty much the same, mostly due to the fact that my mixer suddenly stopped working and refused to restart.  I held back my tears (yes, a broken down KitchenAid brings on tears), pressed on with the bagel making, and later was relieved to discover that the mixer had just overheated.  Whew.  Then I ate a load of bagels, headed north to Duluth, and ran 13.1 miles with my friend Meghann, among others.  

Here is the revised recipe.  

3-1/3 cups water (between 110 and 115 degrees)
2 tbsp dry yeast
2 tbsp salt
6 tbsp sugar
12 cups flour

1. Combine yeast and water.  Add salt & 5 tbsp sugar.  If yeast does not activate in 5 minutes or so, toss it out and start over.  
2. Add the flour to the water mixture.  Knead or beat with dough hook until fairly smooth.  Dough will be pretty stiff.  Add a few tablespoons of water as needed so the dough isn't too crumbly.  
3. Place dough in greased bowl, cover, and let stand for 15 minutes to an hour.
4. Punch dough into a flat rectangle, about 1" thick.  
Option 1: Cut into 24-36 strips.  Wrap loosely around 3 fingers, and pinch off ends of dough.  Overlap end 3/4" and press together to form a ring.  
Option 2: Cut into 24-36 pieces.  Shape into a disc.  Poke a couple fingers through the center to create a hole.  
Cover with towel and let rise 20 minutes.
5. Drop bagels one at a time into 1 gal. boiling water with 1 tbsp. sugar.  Simmer 5-6 minutes, turning occasionally, or until they float.  Remove, and cool on a towel.  
6. Dip in toppings of your choice.  Bake at 400 on greased baking sheet for 30-35 minutes or until browned.  

First, make sure the water is between 110 and 115.  I'm pretty sure the yeast did not activate the last time, probably due to the water temperature being too low.  

When the yeast has activated it will foam a little.  

It wasn't until I was mixing dough that I remembered how dry it was the first time, so I gradually added more water to make it more workable.  I revised the recipe to add 1/3 cup more water at the beginning and then you can add more if needed while it's in the mixer.  It's still a pretty stiff dough, but it's not crumbly.  

Once the dough is pretty smooth, place it into a lightly oiled bowl and roll the dough around to coat it.  Cover it with a clean towel and place in a warm place for about an hour.  The original recipe called for 15 minutes, but I don't think a little longer resting time can hurt.  

Turn the dough out onto your work surface.  Doesn't it look like a big brain?  Or a Kirsten-sized brain?  

Press the dough out until it's about an inch thick.  

Cut into either strips or small pieces to shape into bagels.  I tried both ways, and I found that cutting small pieces was easier than strips.  Just cut a chunk of dough, kind of work it into a disc, then poke a hole through the center with a few fingers.  It's much easier to keep the holes smaller this way and you don't have to worry about pinching the ends of strips together, which I found to be a pain.  

Once you shape the bagels let them sit for about 15 to 20 minutes before boiling them.  

I was able to get two dozen large bagels out of the recipe.  And one little rectangle.  

Boil the bagels for 5 minutes or so, turning them occasionally.  

Don't put too many bagels in at once because they'll expand a little.  

I didn't realize how much they would grow...

Poppy seed, parmesan, and cinnamon & sugar.  

Before baking.

After baking.

And the whole bounty.  

Happy Father's Day!

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June 17, 2009

Carrot Bran Muffins

For some reason I've really been wanting to make bran muffins lately.  I'm not sure that I've ever actually eaten a bran muffin before and I don't typically waste calories on muffins, but I just could not stop thinking about them.  I picked up a little ice cream cone cupcake pan while my mom was in town and decided to break it in with bran muffins.  

I found a recipe on Epicurious and made a few changes to it.  Here's my version:

1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup sour cream*
2/3 cup plain yogurt*
1/4 cup molasses
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup carrot, shredded
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup wheat bran

*The original recipe called for 1 cup sour cream, but I only had about 1/3 cup so I substituted yogurt for the rest.  Any combination of the two will work. 

Combine the sugar and softened butter in the bowl of an electric mixer.

Beat until light and fluffy.

Measure out the sour cream.

And/or yogurt.

And molasses.  It kind of looks like the remains of a hot fudge sundae.  But don't be fooled.  It's a tasty mixture of yogurt, sour cream, and molasses.   

Lightly beat an egg. 

Add the sour cream, yogurt, egg and molasses to the butter and sugar mixture. 

Beat until combined.

Add the raisins and carrots and mix with a spoon.  

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.  

I had to do a little searching to find wheat bran.  After having no luck at Super Target I found it in the cereal aisle at Whole Foods.  When I was at a regular grocery store today I spotted it in the baking aisle, so you might have to look around a bit.  This stuff reminds me of Super Colon Blow.  If only 2.5 million bowls of it went into the muffin recipe...

Mix the dry ingredients. 

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients.

Stir just until combined.  Do not over mix it.  No no no.  

If you don't have an ice cream cone cupcake tin, I suppose a plain old muffin tin will do.  I ended up getting 6 ice cream cone muffins and 6 mini muffins, which is probably comparable to 9 muffins or 12 if you want them on the smaller side.  

Thoroughly butter the muffin tin.  

Fill it with batter and put it in the oven preheated to 400 degrees.  It should take about 15 or 20 minutes for regular-sized muffins.  When the tops look done and they're springy to touch they're done.  

They'll look a little something like this, although hopefully not so blurry.  If they are blurry, you are drunk.  

Remember when I said I had 6 big muffins and 6 little ones?  Well, I ate one.  And I am not sorry.  

They make a tasty breakfast or dessert with a little butter and some fresh fruit.  Yum.  

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June 11, 2009

BBQ Pizza and Fun Facts

1. I still hate Comcast.  They are the worst.  I've been on the phone with them an average of 5 times per day since Monday, and I finally have internet again.  Here's a brief summary of my last 48 hours.

10:03AM, Wednesday: Comcast calls to confirm that a technician is coming on Thursday between 10 and 12.  
10:10AM, Wednesday: Someone else at Comcast calls to ask when I am going to return my equipment or if I need a technician to pick it up.  What equipment?  I just picked up new equipment!  As Ren would say, "You iiiiiiiiiidiots."

11:56AM, Thursday: Comcast technician shows up, tells me the wiring in my building is old, and spends an hour making it work again.  It worked perfectly fine a week ago, in case you were wondering.  

2. I love cooked pickles.  Deep fried?  I'll take them.  Cuban sandwich?  Yes, please.  On pizza?  Give it to me.  Pickles are one of the few ingredients with which I'll stray from my less is more motto for pizza.  More is more with these puppies.  Try it and you will think the same.  They get warm and soften up a bit, but they still retain their crunchiness around the edges.  Perfection.  

I made this BBQ pizza last night with ingredients I had laying around, and it was really delicious.  Instead of pizza sauce I used barbeque sauce as the base.  I had a couple frozen mini turkey burgers and a frozen hamburger that I thawed and sauteed with some oregano and garlic.  Some of the meat went this pizza and the rest went on a second pizza.  Next came the all-important pickles.  I had a big jar of hamburger dills, and I just loaded them on.  The more the merrier.  I drizzled on a little more barbeque sauce, topped it all off with some grated white cheddar, and cooked it until the cheese was all melted.  It was tasty.  

3. I got burned.  And not just by Comcast.  It was by a hot pan this time.  A couple of days ago I made Chicken Tikka Masala from the Pioneer Woman's website (it was delicious), and a hot pan of chicken branded me with a heart.  And stole some of my skin.  Gross, huh?  

4. I just discovered there is a Trivial Pursuit show.  How do I get on it?  As of last night I am up 2-0 over Matt, and I think with a little more practice I will be ready for TV.  The only downside is that the host is that Brady guy that married the America's Next Top Model girl.  

5. My mom is on her way to Minneapolis!  My dad decided he would rather reconstruct the driveway than eat good food and hang out with us, so our girls' weekend will commence shortly.  You can find us at Brasa, Chino Latino, possibly Sebastian Joe's, and then running around the lakes to work it all off.