Sunday, July 31, 2011

Cinnamon Biscuit Fans

I've made cinnamon biscuits for you before, but I was intrigued with the fan presentation of these.  Who can resist the sweet layers of cinnamon and sugar in these pretty breakfast  fan biscuits?  These look fussy to make but are easy peasy, lemon squeezy to make.  A knife, a ruler, and a muffin tin, a bowl, and you are nearly there! Let me show you how.

Cinnamon Biscuits Fans

Makes 8 Biscuits

For the Biscuits
2 cups flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, cold (equal to 16 teaspoons, or 5 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon)
3/4 cup milk

For the Filling
3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the Glaze
1/2 cup powdered sugar (confectioners' sugar)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 to 3 teaspoons milk (or amount required to drizzle)

Preheat oven to 425*F. Grease 8 regular sized muffin cups. 

In a large bowl, mix the flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, baking powder and salt.  Cut in the firm butter using a pastry blender (or pulling 2 table knives through the ingredients in opposite directions), until the mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in just enough milk so the dough leaves the side of the bowl and forms a ball. 

The the dough onto a lightly flowered surface.  Knead lightly 10 times.

On a lightfly floured surface, roll dough into 12 x 10 inch rectangle.

Spread 3 tablespoons butter over rectangle.  Mix 3 tablespoons granulated sugar and the cinnamon and sprinkle over the rectangle.

With the long side of the rectangle facing you, cut crosswise into six 10" x 2" strips.  

Stacks strips.  Cut strips crosswise into eight pieces.

I cut in half, lay the two stacks of strips in front of me, cut stacks in half again, cut in half again. 

Place cut sides up in muffin cups.

Bake 15-18 minutes or until golden brown.  Immediately remove from muffin cups to cooling rack.

In medium bowl combine all the glaze ingredients and stir until smooth and thin enough to drizzle.  Place the cooling rack over a large plate lor cookie sheet to catch any dripping glaze (I just rested my cooling rack on  my muffin tin ~ no point in dirtying up another dish.).  Drizzle glaze over warm biscuits.  Serve warm.

I hope you enjoy these.  These are quite sweet, but go down a treat!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Individual Baked Omelet

One of Ole Sweetie-Pi's favorite breakfasts is omelets.  The one breakfast I least like to make is omelets.  I can never get them to look beautiful.   Frankly, by the time I get done with it, it's a scrambled egg mess.  All the ingredients are there, it's just kind of unattractive, smiles. Sweetie-Pi is aware he is not to comment on presentation; he just dolefully eats what he asked for.

I received an e-newsletter from Allrecipes for Baked Omelet, and I had to immediately investigate. After reading how simple it was, I wasted no time and set out to make our Sunday breakfast.

This recipe is so easy.  You can add just about any ingredient to the basic egg and milk mixture to personalize your omelet. For us, this is a good way to use those tiny bits of vegetables and meat from other cooking projects. I am loathe to waste food, and this offers an opportunity to use them in a new and delicious format.

The original recipe calls for 8 eggs and  to be baked in an 8" x 8" casserole dish, way to much for us, so I eyeballed ingredient amounts for two, and  used my over-sized muffin tins to make individual omelets.  Sweetie-Pi gave his hearty approval.

Individual Baked Omelet for Two

Preheat oven to 350*F.  Generously grease whatever type of casserole or baking dish you are going to use. As I mentioned, I used over-sized muffin tins and sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.**

In my four cup mixing cup, I added and then mixed together:

3 eggs
a splash of milk
a small handful of pizza cheese mix
1/4 onion, finely diced
1/4 green pepper, finely diced
3 slices of cooked ham, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon baking powder**

I poured the mixture into the individual cups, about half full. Bake at 350*F for about 30 minutes or until nice and puffy and golden brown.  Run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the muffin cups and use a small spatula to scoop them out.  One of these was more than enough for us, as the cheese seems to make this rich.

**There is one caveat to use the muffin tin ~ the omelet was a bit of a stinker to get out, even though I generously sprayed the cups.  And of course, that left me with an crusty, eggy muffin tin to clean.  I would still make this again; I think the presentation is worth the effort.

The original recipe does not call for baking powder; it is an addition that I've seen with other omelet recipes and is an ingredient I chose to add here.  The baking powder helps to make the eggs fluffier and gives a nice height.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Blueberry Crumb Bars

I've been chuckling off and on all week at the comments and emails I've received after my last post of Perfection Salad.  Most agreed they could live without salad in a gelatin mold, and that's okay; I still love it.

Here's a recipe that's probably a little more universally appealing.  This  recipe that is pretty darned simple to make and the results are greater than the effort expended.  Ole Sweetie-Pi loved this for breakfast, remarked several times how good it was, and he's one not to emote over how much he liked what he ate.  I shared several pieces with my next door neighbors and they ate for dessert, reported back to Ole Sweetie-Pi that it was declared delicious.  No matter when you eat indulge, this is good!

I was perusing the King Arthur Flour's Baking Circle, and a member had posted this recipe. The poster attributed the recipe to Smitten Kitchen, who had adapted it  from one she discovered on Allrecipes.  The recipe on the KAF forum had a slight change (no egg was used), and that's the recipe I went with.  The crust is similar to a shortbread cookie, and works well here.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(King Arthur Flour Forum)

For the crust topping:
1 cup of white sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt (a good pinch)
Zest of one lemon
1 cup of cold butter

For the filling:
4 cups (2 pints) fresh or frozen blueberries
1/3 cup sugar
4 teaspoons cornstarch
Juice of one lemon

Preheat oven to 375*F.  Have ready an ungreased 9 inch x 13 inch pan. (There's enough butter in the crust to preclude the need of having to butter the pan.)

Rinse the berries, pick out anything that looks undesirable, such as stems or berries that look too smushed.

Combine the dry ingredients.  Cut the butter in using two knives in a criss-cross cutting motion, or a pastry blender, or freeze it first and grate it in.** Mix until the mixture is crumbly.  Pat half the mixture into the pan and reserve the remaining half for the crumb topping.

To make the filling, combine the dry ingredients with the blueberries.  Sprinkle the lemon juice over the berries and gently stir.  Pour the berries over the crust in an even layer.

Sprinkle the remaining crust topping over the blueberries.  Bake for 45 minutes or until golden brown.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.  Cut into squares when cool.  Refrigerate unused portion.
Still very good the next day.

**My Notes:  Depending on how tactile you are, using your impeccably clean hands, first dice the cold butter and add to the dry ingredients.  Rub the butter into the flour mixture with your fingers.  The flour will start to look raggedy, and once that happens, grab a wee handful and gently squeeze it; if it holds together, stop, and go on with the rest of the recipe.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Perfection Salad

What do you think of gelatin molds?  Are they something better left to our cooking past or should they be brought to today's table?  Did you know that one version or another of Perfection Salad has been around for almost 80 years?  From what I read, the good folks at Knox and the good folks at Jello had a bit of a competition going on for their gelatin products, and in all fairness some pretty forgettable gelatin molds were created.  But Perfection Salad is one that should be remembered.  Fairly low calorie, veggie good, with a little creamy tartness from the mayonnaise.  It reminds me of a cole slaw in a way, just in a gelatin mold.  And I love the colors; it adds a little sparkle and shimmer to the plate.

I brought this to a family outing a while back, knowing full well the Sweetie-Pi's grandsons wouldn't go near this gelatin if their life depended on it (and I was right), I wasn't too sure about his young adult daughters (there were good sports and ate polite nibbles, smiles), but I figured we "older" folks would certainly reminensce and enjoy this old fashioned Perfection Salad. 

As it turned out, I was the only one who liked this, and I liked this a lot.  Sweetie-Pi's sister, Susan, was honest and said she didn't like this even when their mother made it, and that's fine. I'm sure, without my mentioning it, you know that Sweetie-Pi couldn't even look at it (even though green is his favorite color!).  I brought most of the salad back home, and yes, I polished it off all by myself. At the next to the last minute, as I was about to eat the last slice, I decided to throw it on a bed of lettuce and photograph it, just in case I decided to post it. Hence, it's not beautiful, but I can assure you its lack of aesthetics didn't stop me from enjoying it to the laste bite.

I may as well tell you, if you come to my house and we're having a ladies' luncheon, I want to make this for you.  I'll try not to go too Donna Reed with the pearl necklace, high heeled pumps, and shirt waist dress, but you never know.  This recipe is an inspiration.

Perfection Salad

2 tablespoons unflavored powdered gelatin, softened in 1⁄2 cup cold water

1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄3 cup rice vinegar
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon. kosher salt
2 cups chopped celery
1 cup finely shredded cabbage
2 jarred pimentos, minced
1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and minced

Canola oil, for greasing

In a  custard cup or other similar small bowl, soften the gelatin in the water.

Add the sugar, rice vinegar, lemon juice, salt and softened gelatin to a small sauce pan.  Heat over medium heat until the gelatin dissolves.  Remove from heat and chill for 30 minutes (gelatin will be thick, but not thoroughly set).  Stir in remaining prepared vegetables.

Grease a 12" x 4 1/2" x 2" pan (or use individual custard cups, etc.) and transfer gelatin mix to the mold.  Chill until set, about 6 hours.

When it comes time to unmold the salad, take a thin-bladed knife and gently slide it along the edge of the mold.  Set the mold in a pan of hot water for about 5 seconds.  Remove from pan from the water and turn the mold onto the serving plate. 

Served 1, but really is intended to serve 12
**My Notes:  I used an 8" x 5" bread loaf pan and it worked fine.  I would love to make this salad in individual custard cups just because the presentation would be prettier.  I rarely have success unmolding gelatin, so I would hesitate to use a mold that is too intricate.  Even  using the loaf pan, the first attempt at unmolding was unsuccessful.  I returned the pan to the hot water for another five seconds, and it was a tad too long because the unmolded gelatin had started to melt.  I put everything in the refrigerator for 30 minutes or so and it set up fine.

Monday, July 4, 2011

New England Clam Chowder

In between these early summer days of sultry weather, we've had a couple of days of damp and cool, when the idea of hamburgers and potato salad just didn't seem to hit the spot. 

I rummaged about in the pantry and saw I had three cans of minced clams, had some heavy cream in the fridge that needed to be used, and knew what we'd be having for dinner.

This clam chowder is very good; it's not the best (if you've ever had fresh from the Atlantic Ocean clams made into chowder from Legal Seafoods in Boston, you'll know what I mean by best), but it's the best I've ever made at home.  This chowder had a wonderful velvety mouth feel and the clam flavor came through nicely.  Even Ole Sweetie-Pi, who rarely goes for a second helping on anything with milk in it, ate two servings, and put dibs on the leftovers.

There's controversy about bacon versus salt pork, and I use bacon.  Rarely do I have salt pork in the house unless I'm making baked beans.  If you have salt pork, but all means go ahead and use it; just render the fat as you would with the bacon.  Some folks go so far as to finely dice the salt pork and sprinkle it on the chowder  as a garnish, but I'm not one of them; I've got to have some limits, smiles, on the amount of fat I consume.

And take a look at the last ingredient at the ingredient list. Are you as surprised as I was?  I hesitated using the sugar as it's not an ingredient I envision with clam chowder, so I opted to use just a good pinch, and the addition seemed to work just fine.

New England Clam Chowder

3 6.5-ounce cans minced or whole clams, reserve liquid **
3 slices bacon
4 cups diced potatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped onion
2 1/2 cups milk, divided
1 cup heavy cream (light cream will work too)

3 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
good pinch of sugar

Drain the clams, reserving the liquid.  Add enough water to make 2 cups of liquid.

In a large saucepan, cook the bacon, rendering the fat.  Remove the bacon and save the drippings.  Add the diced potatoes and onions and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or so, or until the onions look translucent. 

Add the clam juice, cover, and simmer about 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork.

Stir in the claims, 2 cups of milk and the cream. 

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup of milk with the flour and stir well.  Stir mixture into the chowder. Cook chowder until thick and bubbly.

Add Worcestershire sauce and a pinch of sugar. Stir, and taste for seasoning; add salt and pepper if desired. 

Supposed to serve 4, (probably dainty eaters)  but more likely 2 or 3 really hungry people.

**My notes:  The original recipe called for 2 cans of clams, which isn't nearly enough.  Even with three 6.5-ounce cans of clams, I felt as if I could have used another can, and then I probably wouldn't have had to add any water at all.

Four cups of potatoes, is that really enough?  Depends how thick and chunky you like your clam chowder.  Next time, I'll probably add another potato or two. 

Same goes with the thickener.  I've had chowder so thick you could stand your spoon up in it and at the other end of the spectrum, where it was just a milk broth.  This chowder is a medium consistency, very good.  If you like it thicker, add more flour and milk after you see how it cooks up.