Nov 30, 2012

Baked Chimichangas


These chimichangas are fast, easy, delicious, and fun to make! I like that they're baked instead of deep fried. You could lighten them up even more by using lower fat ingredients if you wanted to. 

Baked Chimichangas are a hit at my house- give them a try and let me know what you think!


Baked Chimichangas
Makes about 7 to 8 chimichangas, depending on how large you make them :)

Ingredients:
1 pound ground beef (I used 93% lean)
1 cup chopped onion
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chiles
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1/2 cup water
1 package taco seasoning (I used my homemade taco seasoning)
1 (15 oz.) can refried beans
8 burrito-size flour tortillas
1 (8 oz.) package shredded Mexican 4-cheese blend
1  jar salsa verde
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I used vegetable spray instead)
Toppings of your choice: tomatoes, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, etc.

Directions:
1. In large skillet, brown ground beef and onions until beef is no longer pink. Drain well.

2. Stir in green chiles, tomato sauce, water, and taco seasoning packet. (If you are using your own taco seasoning, you probably won't need quite as much water. I used about 1/3 cup). Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer for about 8 minutes, or until thickened. Stir in refried beans.

3. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a rimmed baking pan with parchment paper or foil (spray foil with non stick spray). Spoon about 1/3 cup meat mixture onto tortilla. Top with 3 tablespoons of shredded cheese (it is slightly possible that I may have used more than that!), and 1 tablespoon of salsa verde. You could use red salsa here, whatever you prefer. Fold up the four sides of the tortilla (see pictures), and place seam side down on prepared baking sheet. Brush chimichangas lightly and evenly with oil (or spray them with canola cooking spray).

4. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with your favorite toppings!




Done! Now bake and enjoy!







Recipe adapted from Paula Deen.

Baked Chimichangas may have been taken to some of these fun parties!



Nov 24, 2012

Old Fashioned Hot Chocolate

ready for the marshmallows!

This is the hot chocolate I grew up with. We called it cocoa. On cold days, my mom would get out her Revere Ware pot with the copper bottom and simmer up a batch of this for us. We always popped a big marshmallow or two into the cup. The big ones lasted a long time, and every sip had a little bit of melty marshmallow swirled in. If the marshmallow wasn't melting quickly enough, you could dunk it with your spoon to help it along.

Old Fashioned Hot Chocolate
Makes 2 servings

3 cups whole milk
1/4 cup cocoa
scant 1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
very scant 1/8 teaspoon salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, scald milk (see note, below). Turn heat to low, and whisk in the cocoa, sugar, and salt. When well combined, stir in vanilla. Adjust to taste. Pour into mugs and top with marshmallows. Some people like to put the marshmallows in first, and then pour the hot chocolate in. 

You can add all sorts of things to this recipe. Some people like cinnamon, or peppermint, or even a little brandy stirred in. You could use dark cocoa if you like.

Note: Scalded milk is an important flavor and aroma element in old fashioned hot chocolate. I do it in a pan on the stove. I haven't been able to get the same results in the microwave. Scalding milk is bringing it just to the edge of a boil. The edges will bubble, and the milk will have steam rising off the top of it. 

In "How to Scald Milk", Holly Quinn notes: "Occasionally, especially if you like trying out old-fashioned recipes, you may come across "scalded milk" in the list of ingredients. This isn't an item that can be purchased already prepared, like evaporated milk; it's made with a fairly simple process of heating the milk just to the edge of boiling.
Scalding milk is not necessary for health reasons as it was in the olden days, when it was done primarily to destroy bacteria. Today's modern pasteurization takes care of that. But scalded milk can make a slight difference in the taste and texture of baked items and custards--if you haven't quite been able to copy one of grandma's recipes on the nose, scalded milk could be what's missing."

Nov 20, 2012

Shoo-Fly Cake


Today's baking project is the unfortunately-named Shoo-Fly Cake (based on the Shoo-Fly Pie). I say "unfortunately", because, really, who wants to think about flies while they're cooking and eating? 

Despite its name, this cake is delicious.  It's a dense, moist, gingerbread-type cake crowned with buttery crumbs. If I were to name it today, I would call it "Gingerbread Cake with Shortbread Topping." There, doesn't that sound better? :)


The Shoo-Fly Pie has a long history in the U.S. It's most commonly associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch, but also well-known in Southern cooking. Some sources say it came over with the earliest settlers, and that it might even be descended from the English treacle tart.


The origin of the name has been debated for years and will probably never ultimately be solved. The most logical explanation is that during the early years of our country, all baking was done in big, outdoor ovens. As these sweet, molasses-filled pies cooled beside the ovens, flies would hover, needing to be "shooed" away.


Not everyone cares for molasses or gingerbread flavors, but if you do, this cake is for you.

Shoo-Fly Cake

Crumb Topping:
1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into small cubes

Cake:

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup unsulfured blackstrap molasses
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (I used regular salt)
 1 cup warm coffee

Directions:

Center an oven rack and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9 X 2 inch cake pan with 1 tablespoon soft butter. I used a 10 1/2 inch iron skillet. I loved the idea of baking such an old-fashioned cake in an old-fashioned pan. 

To make the crumb topping, combine the brown sugar and flour in a small bowl. Toss in the butter cubes, and, using your fingertips, pinch the butter into the dry ingredients to make crumbs. Place the bowl in the freezer while you make the cake.


To make the cake, whisk together the sugar, butter, molasses, and vanilla in a large bowl until smooth. Blend in the eggs one at a time.


In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt, then whisk the ingredients together by hand to make sure they are well mixed. Using a rubber spatula, stir the flour mixture into the batter in three additions, alternating with the coffee in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Pour the thin batter into the prepared pan, and sprinkle with the chilled crumb topping. 


Bake in the center of the oven until the top is just firm, about 45 minutes. Be careful not to overbake or it will be dry. Cool the cake on a wire rack for about 30 minutes before serving warm from the pan.


Well wrapped and kept at room temperature, this cake keeps for 3 days.


I thought it might have been even better the second day.

batter

 
sprinkle on the crumb topping 

mmm...fresh out of the oven

that first slice is warm and moist..and it smells heavenly!


Shoo-Fly Cake is from Vintage Cakes, and may have been taken to some of these great parties!




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Nov 14, 2012

Cornbread Cook-off!

There are two camps when it comes to cornbread: those who like it sweet, and those who prefer it unsweetened. I was raised in the sweet cornbread camp, but honestly, I like them both. If I had to choose, I'd probably choose the sweet (or I might just ask for a slice of both!). 

There has been a cornbread recipe circulating around the internet and on Pinterest called "Grandmother's Buttermilk Cornbread." It's from allrecipes.com (see the recipe here), and is described as "Grandma's recipe for a sweet, moist cornbread, likely to become your favorite." I was intrigued. This recipe had two of my favorite food words, sweet and moist, and I love to bake with buttermilk. I decided I needed to try this recipe.

I thought as long as I was making cornbread, I should make a batch of my mother's cornbread, too. Kind of compare the two. See if that new recipe really would become my favorite. 

So here's how they stacked up:

These are both sweet cornbreads, with "Grandmother's" being quite a bit sweeter.

Grandmother's cornbread was delicious. It really was sweet and moist, just like the recipe promised. It was cake-like in taste and texture. That's what the buttermilk will do for you- makes it moist and gives it a finer texture. Some of the moistness of this cornbread also comes from the full stick of butter called for in the recipe. :)


The texture does look a little like cake, doesn't it?

Mmmm...butter on hot cornbread...

My mother's cornbread recipe isn't as sweet, but it's definitely still sweet cornbread. It's a little coarser, or heartier textured, you might say. More like you might expect cornbread to be. It's tender and flavorful. I do love this cornbread.

There's a little more texture to this one

I'll tell you how to get this nice, crispy crust in a minute...

My taste testers and I were split pretty evenly on which of these recipes we preferred. They're both very good. We finally decided that it would depend on what you were serving with the cornbread. A sweeter dish, such as baked beans or a sweeter BBQ might be balanced out with my mother's cornbread, while a more savory meal, such as ham and beans, might be good with the sweetness of Grandmother's recipe. 

Either way, I hope you enjoy some good cornbread soon.
Mother's Cornbread

Ingredients:
1 cup cornmeal (I used yellow)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg
1 cup evaporated (canned) milk, or regular milk
1/4 cup (half a stick) butter 

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. You'll need an 8" or 9" baking pan. I used a 9" iron skillet. Slice off about a half of tablespoon of the butter called for in the recipe, put it in the pan, and put the pan in the oven while the oven preheats. 

2. Place the remaining butter in a medium bowl and microwave for a few seconds until the butter is melted. Set aside to cool a little. In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together until well blended.

3. In a 2 cup measuring cup, pour one cup of milk. Add the egg to the milk and whisk lightly until blended. Make sure the butter has cooled off (you don't want it to scramble the egg), and pour slowly into the milk mixture while whisking. 

4. Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir just until completely combined. Your oven and pan should be heated by now. Carefully remove the pan from the oven and swirl the pan to evenly distribute the melted butter. Immediately pour the batter into the pan. The batter will start to fry just a little when it hits the hot pan- that's where the crisp crust comes from. :) Pop it right back into the oven, and bake for about 20  to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and set in the middle. I turn my pan about half way through cooking time so that the cornbread browns evenly.

                                      Good homemade cornbread doesn't last long!




Nov 7, 2012

Comfort Food: Chicken Spaghetti



Here it is mid-week, and you may be needing a little comfort food. If you haven't had chicken spaghetti lately, it may be time to put it on the menu. 


Casseroles have been around for a long time, but, for many of us, they are most commonly associated with the 1950s. Once Campbell's started producing its "cream of" soups in 1934, casseroles gradually took on the form that we are most familiar with today.

There are many versions of chicken spaghetti out there, but this one is one of the best I've tasted. It's very flavorful, very cheesy, with just the right ratio of chicken to spaghetti to veggies to sauce. It's also kind of pretty, with the red pimentos and green peppers peeking out from under the layers of spaghetti and yellow cheese.


The "cream of" brothers


Top with cheese and bake

Chicken Spaghetti

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked chicken (I used a rotisserie chicken)


16 oz. dry spaghetti, broken in half

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1 can cream of chicken soup

2 cups shredded cheese (I used an Italian blend of mozzarella, provolone, parmesan, romano, and asiago cheeses. Use your favorite- cheddar, sharp cheddar, whatever you like.)

1/4 cup finely diced green pepper

1/4 cup finely diced onion

1 jar (4 oz) diced pimentos, drained

1 can (14.5 oz) chicken broth

1/4 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste (I did not add any salt- there seemed to be enough from the soups and broth)

1 cup additional shredded cheese for the top of the casserole (I used mild cheddar)


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook spaghetti in lightly salted boiling water until the spaghetti is just barely done (al dente) and drain. You don't want to overcook it- it's going to cook some more when you bake the casserole. In a large bowl, combine all the rest of the ingredients (except for the last 1 cup of cheese) until combined. Stir in the spaghetti and mix well. Pour into a greased 13 X 9 pan and sprinkle with the remaining 1 cup of cheese. 

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until hot and bubbly and just starting to brown.


Time to eat!





Recipe adapted from The Pioneer Woman


Chicken Spaghetti may have been shared at some of these fun parties!



Nov 1, 2012

Spicy Cheddar Crackers

Crackers have been around since 1792 when a Massachusetts baker made a cracker-like bread product using only flour and water. Used by sailors and soldiers because if its shelf life, it also became known as hardtack or sea biscuit. There are pieces of hardtack in existence today that date from the Civil War. That's an impressive shelf life!

These crackers are much tastier (and cuter) than hardtack. Southern Living calls them "cookies". They don't have so much of a crispy snap, but more of the rich, textured bite you would get in a pie crust.



Cutting round crackers with my grandmother's biscuit cutter 


Spicy Cheddar Crackers
Makes 28 (3 1/2 inch crackers) or 72 (2 1/2) inch crackers

Ingredients:
1 (10 oz.) block sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (I used salted), cut into 4 pieces and at room temperature
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper (I used ground red pepper)
2 tablespoons half and half

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pulse first 5 ingredients in a food processor at 5 second intervals until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add half and half, and process 10 seconds or until dough forms a ball. (At this point, dough may be wrapped in plastic wrap, sealed in a zip top plastic bag and refrigerated for up to 3 days).

2. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface; divide dough in half for ease of handling. (At this point, I divided the dough in half, wrapped each half in plastic wrap, shaped the dough halves into discs and refrigerated for about 15 minutes. The dough is easier to handle if it's chilled).

3. On floured surface, roll dough to 1/8". The crackers won't be as crispy if the dough is not rolled this thin. Cut dough with 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 inch cookie cutters. Carefully place cutouts on parchment lined cookie sheets. Prick evenly with a fork or toothpick to prevent the crackers from puffing up as they bake. Bake 16-18 minutes (mine took anywhere from about 11 minutes to about 20 minutes, depending on size) or until golden. Cool in pan on wire racks for 30 minutes.

4. Repeat step 3 with remaining half of dough.


The recipe warned to position cookie cutters close together to cut out shapes because the dough would be tough if rerolled. I did reroll scraps, just to see, and I did not find the crackers to be tough. I rerolled as lightly as I could with as little flour as I could.

If you want to top some of the crackers with seeds (I used sesame seeds and poppy seeds), mix one egg white with 1 teaspoon water. Just before baking, brush tops of crackers lightly with egg white, then sprinkle seeds and bake.

Crackers can be stored in an air tight container (I used a wax paper-lined tin). They are best served the day they are made. You can serve them the next day, just crisp them up in the oven for a couple of minutes right before serving (about 2 minutes at 400 degrees; watch them closely so that they don't over-brown).




Individual portions- just right for a party!






Adapted from Southern Living's Spicy Cheddar Appetizer Cookies