Monthly Archives: February 2010

Deep Fried Oreo Cookies

Warning!  There is absolutely nothing locally grown nor healthy in this recipe.  None.  At all.

The sun is shining, everyone is getting back outside, and summer is on our minds.  With summer comes county fairs, and with county fairs comes deep fried everything.  In honor of mass produced food-like products that are deep fried and offered to you on a stick, I bring you deep fried Oreos.

This recipe comes from one of the best browsing cookbooks ever, America’s Best BBQ, on the pages featuring Righteous Urban Barbecue in New York, New York.  The book features dishes from some of our country’s best BBQ joints.  Each page is loaded with color pictures, usually highlighting amazing and well seasoned BBQ pits, restaurants looking more like shacks than anything corporate America would ever go for, lots and lots and lots of amazing pork, and rank amateur photos of gut busting food.  True Americana.

Ingredients:

2 cups white cake mix

2 large eggs

1 1/2 cups milk

1 TBS oil

Canola oil for frying

1 package Oreo cookies

Powdered sugar for garnish

Directions:

1.  Preheat the oil in a deep-fryer or deep skillet to 375 degrees.

2.  In a medium bowl, blend the cake mix, eggs, mild, and oil until it forms a smooth batter.

3.  Dip the cookies in the batter until totally coated and them place in the hot oil.  The cookies will gloat.  Fry the cokies until the bottom sides are brown.  Keep a close watch because it takes only a short time to brown them.  Turn the cookies over and brown the other side.  Remove the cookies, drain on a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve warm.

Notes:

  • Taste?  Come on now, they are Deep Fried Oreos in cake batter!
  • Personally, I’m not an Oreo fan, but the warm filling and the fried cake batter coating was noteworthy.
  • Yes, more deep fried Oreos were consumed than we care to admit.

Lightish Stuffed Manicotti

Lightish.  Gotta love that the indecision.  Yes, I want to make a rich pasta dish with Alfredo sauce, but don’t want it to have too many calories.  Typical female.  This was my first go at manicotti.  It is just so different from the standard spaghetti that it put fear in my heart for years.  And while a few lessons were learned, it will take a few more trips around the park to get that pasta stuffing technique perfected.  The stuffing is based on a stuffed shells recipe from Southern Living and the Alfredo sauce is based on a recipe comment that suggested using fat free half and half with a bit of flour instead of the whipping cream.  Like I said, its lightish.

Yes, the sauce in the picture is broken.  Perhaps its time to make an ugly picture category for the blog!  But, there’s a story behind that.  With all of the stress in my vocation and location due to the economy, and following two nights of “informational meetings” I was so stressed that the only way to get out of it was to go on a cooking bender.  Everyone has their own way to handle stress, and an all out “leave me along and let me cook” marathon is a reliable tool in my repertoire.  Naturally, time needed for each dish was completely underestimated.  Typical.  In the end, all of the prep work, including the Alfredo sauce,  was completed in one evening, with the 5 family sized dishes assembled the next day.  Food to share, food to freeze, food to ease burdens.  And in the end, the cooking bender did soothe my frazzled nerves.  Ahhhhhh.

Lightish Stuffed Manicotti

Manicotti ingredients:

1 box manicotti shells

2 packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained

2 cups diced chicken (optional)

1 TBS fresh basil, chopped

16 oz low fat cottage cheese

1 egg, beaten

1/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1/4 tsp nutmeg

Alfredo Sauce ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 1/4 cups fat free half and half

2 TBS flour

3/4 cup Parmesan, grated

1/4 tsp nutmeg

1 clove garlic, finely diced

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between paper towels.

3. Stir together spinach, chicken, basil, and next 4 ingredients.  Set aside.

4.  Prepare Alfredo sauce by melting butter in a sauce pan, add remaining ingredients, and lightly whisk until cheese is melted and sauce is smooth.  Continue stirring over low heat for 5 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.

5.  Cook manicotti shells according to directions on the box, and remove to a plate.

6.  Spread 1 cup Alfredo sauce on the bottom of a 9 by 13 pan.

7.  Either put spinach filling in a gallon size plastic bag and cut the corner off to use for filling each manicotti shell, or gently fill pasta tubes with a teaspoon.  Lay the manicotti on the alfredo sauce.

8.  Top with remaining sauce.

9.  Bake, covered, at 350° for 40 to 45 minutes or until filling is hot and sauce is bubbly. Remove from oven, and let stand 10 minutes.

Notes:

  • This can be prepared through step 8, then covered and frozen for 1 month.
  • I made one batch with chicken and one without.  Both were equally yummy.
  • When stuffing the manicotti tubes, I went back and forth between the plastic bag method and the spoon method.  Next time I may need to just find more patience.
  • Slightly under-cooking the pasta helped keep the tubes from splitting open.

Brined Roasted Chicken

Way back in 1998, the San Francisco Chronicle wrote a story on brining meats which I cut out and put into my recipe binder.  (Remember those?  Back in the dark days before online recipe sites and food blogs?)  I hadn’t heard of the technique before, but it sure caught my fancy, and I gave it a go, first with chicken and then with pork chops.  Each turned out better than any cooked at home ever before.  Yes, just as promised, the meat was juicy and flavorful as opposed to dry and bland.  Call me a convert.  Now, a brine is always used on these meats.

A few years back, there would be a brined and roasted chicken on our dinner table about once a month.  Easy, inexpensive, and delicious were the traits that kept that dish coming back.  What caused the habit to fade is a mystery to me.  Then, last month, I was browsing my favorite food blogs and ran across Michael Rhulman writing about how he roasts a chicken for dinner weekly and tried the brining method for a change.  Memories of lovely roasted chicken came whirling back through my mind!

If you have not yet brined a bird, now is the time.  Yes, there are extra steps, but with a little planning, they take very little time. This is the basic plan:

  • While making dinner the night before the roasted chicken dinner, make brine while making dinner.  Use the same pot that you’ll put the bird in when the brine has cooled.  The brine just involves a few ingredients that need to be brought to a boil and can be put together in under 5 minutes.  You’re at the stove anyways, just add one more pot for the brine.
  • Let the brine cool during the evening and put it in the refrigerator before going to bed.
  • In the morning, rise the chicken, remove any innards, and put it in the brine.  Leave the brined bird in the refrigerator all day.  At this point, you have completed all steps for the brining process and are ready to roast the chicken that night.

Brined Roasted Chicken

Ingredients:

1 gallon water, more if need to completely cover the chicken while in the pot

1 cup kosher salt

4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed with the side of a knife to break open

1 to 2 TBS peppercorns cracked with a mortar and pestle

2 sprigs rosemary (can also use oregano or sage)

1 chicken

Directions:

1.  Combine water, salt, garlic, peppercorns and rosemary in a large pot on the stove.  Heat to a boil and stir until salt dissolves.  Remove from heat and cool.  Place in refrigerator overnight.

2.  In the morning, remove brine and chicken from refrigerator.  Rinse chicken and remove any parts in the body cavity.  Place chicken into the pot, breast side down, cover, and return to refrigerator.

3.  When ready to roast, preheat oven to 425 degrees, remove chicken from the pot and allow to air dry while coming closer to room temperature. Place chicken, breast side up,  in roasting rack or iron skillet for cooking.

4.  Set the roasting pan or skillet in the oven.  After 15 minutes lower the heat to 350 degrees, and continue roasting for one hour, or until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees.  Remove from oven and let rest for 15 minutes.

Notes:

  • The roasting method is based on Julia Child’s recommendations.  I miss Julia.
  • Because the chicken drippings will be salty, homemade gravy just doesn’t work with this method.
  • Ruhlman talks about using a cast iron skillet for his roasted birds.  I’ll give that a go next time around.
  • Once you have the basics of salt, garlic, and peppercorns down, play around with different herbs.  The possibilities are endless!
  • The Chronicle article provides great information, especially the “What the Pro’s Know” and “How Long to Brine” sections.
  • Once that chicken is in the oven, you have time to relax with a glass of wine.  Nice!

A Nice Little Roasted Veggie Sandwich

Everyone seems to be into this 30 minute meal craze.  The goal in this race is to see how quickly a person can get dinner on the table.  Bonus points are awarded for a well balanced meal.  Double bonus points go to using fresh ingredients in the 30 minute well balanced meal.  Triple points are awarded to doing all that without using half the pots and pans in your kitchen!  To be frank, I’ve tried a few of these and been disappointed.  But, I have learned a few tricks from the ever present Rachael Ray and Cooking Light’s Fresh Food Fast book.  Here we go, in no particular order:

  • keep it simple
  • add a punch of flavor somewhere
  • grill whenever possible

This little weeknight sammie lives up to all three tricks.  First, its a sandwich, which keeps it simple.  The Parmesan mayo with a healthy dose of garlic punches up the flavor and could easily be reworked into a dip.  And finally, keeping a gas grill right outside our kitchen makes year round grilling a breeze.  Several of the Cooking Light recipes have you spritz some salad spritzer on the veggies before grilling, and this is easily one of the best little secrets ever.  Its like the perfect little flavorizer in a spray bottle, and I have used that shortcut year round with great success on all kinds of grilled veggies.

Grilled Portobello Sandwich with Parmesan Mayonnaise

makes 4 sandwiches

Ingredients:

2 Portobello mushrooms

1 red bell pepper

4 lettuce leaves

Balsamic salad spritzer

8 slices sourdough bread

1/2 cup Parmesan mayonnaise

Parmesan Mayonnaise

1/2 cup light mayonnaise

2 cloves garlic, pressed

2 TBS grated Parmesan cheese

2 TBS red onion, minced

1/4 tsp black pepper

Directions:

1.  Heat grill or broiler.

2.  Prepare Parmesan mayonnaise by combining the light mayo, garlic, Parmesan, onion, and black pepper in a bowl.  Refrigerate.

3.  Remove stems from mushrooms and spray bottoms of caps with balsamic spritzer.

4.  Place mushrooms on the grill.  Turn after 7 minutes, or when browned and tender.  Remove from grill, and slice into 1/2 inch sections.

5.  Assemble sandwiches by spreading 1 tablespoon Parmesan mayonnaise onto each bread slice.  On 4 of the bread slices, layer portobello mushroom slices, red bell pepper sections, lettuce leafs, and top with the other pieces of bread.

Notes:

  • This Parmesan mayonnaise is really, really good!
  • To roast a bell pepper, place it on the grill over direct heat and turn when each side chars.  When all sides are charred, place the bell pepper in a plastic bag, twist the top of the bag to seal in the heat, and let it sit for ten minutes.  Finally, take the bell pepper out of the bag and slide the charred skin off the sides and remove the stem and seeds.  Cut into sections.
  • You can use what ever type of sandwich bread you choose of course.  Sourdough is simply my favorite.
  • Grilling the bread gives an extra bit of love to the sandwich.
  • Yes, roasted red bell peppers are available in jars in the store.  But … I’m just too frugal to spend 6 bucks on peppers.
  • This is easily adapted to making under the broiler.

Cream Puff Heaven

You may just happen to notice that Livin Local doesn’t sport many dessert recipes, and even fewer baked goods at that.  I’d like to say that is due to the fact there is no local flour milled in this neck of the woods.  But in truth, I just don’t have any baking mojo.  None.

Today our Gourmet Dinner Club is gathering to share a German feast together, and dessert is my assignment.  Give us any other assignment and we can browse and assess recipes like pros, but not desserts.  In testing recipes, we made a peach ditty that was ok, but not special,  and passed it off to our 20 something son with his 20 something friends with their 20 something appetites for their fridge.  A cookie type creation with almond dough wrapping fruit preserves was nibbled at and it sat on the counter in a house with two teenagers before we finally threw it away.  The German chocolate cake, soaked in alcohol, with butter-cream frosting between layers and whipped cream frosting on top, and chocolate shavings all over was so pathetic that we tossed three quarters of it in the garbage because even with all that potential goodness, the cake simply failed.  And none of this surprised me at all.

The cream puffs surprised me.  They are perfect!  On the first try, these lovely pastry shells came out perfectly and we devoured them on the spot.  So, regardless if you are a skilled baker, or if like me, you’ve never found your baking mojo, this is for you.

Recipe from JoyofBaking.com     Makes 18 heavenly cream puffs.

Ingredients:

Pastry:

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1/2 tsp granulated sugar

1/4 tsp salt

4 TBS unsalted butter

1/2 cup water

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

Egg wash glaze:

1 large egg

pinch of salt

Whipped cream:

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 TBS granulated sugar

Garnish:

powdered sugar

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place rack in the center of the oven.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2.  In a bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, and salt.  Set aside.

3.  Place butter and water in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat and, with a wooden spoon or spatula, quickly add the flour mixture.  Return to heat and stir constantly until the dough comes away from the sides of the pan and forms a thick smooth ball (about one minute).

4.  Transfer the dough to an electric mixer and beat on low speed a minute or two to release the steam from the dough.  Once the dough is lukewarm, start adding the lightly beaten eggs and continue to mix until you have a smooth thick paste.

5.  Spoon or pipe 12 to 18 mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, spacing them a couple of inches apart.

6.  Beat together the egg and salt for the glaze.  With a pastry brush, gently brush the glaze on the tops of the dough.

7.  Bake for 15 minutes and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees.  Bake for another 30 to 40 minutes or until the shells are a nice amber color.

8.  Turn the oven off and, with the door slightly ajar, let the shells dry out for a further 10 to 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack.

9.  Make whipped cream by placing the whipping cream, vanilla and sugar in a mixing bowl, cooling it in the refrigerator for 30 minutes, and whisking or mixing it until soft peaks form.

10.  To assemble, split the pastry shell in half and fill with whipped cream.  Place the top half of the pastry shell on the shipped cream and dust with powdered sugar.

Notes:

  • Don’t let the number of steps alarm you.  This comes together very quickly. I just write directions out this way because when I read a recipe written in a long paragraph form, I get lost.  Baby steps.
  • Did you notice that most of the ingredients are already in your pantry?  Another reason to give this a try.
  • Seeing how these were devoured at home, I’m making a batch for the adults at the dinner, and another for our teens while they hang out together.