Apr 29, 2010

Stovetop Pear Crumble

Let's just get this out in the open...I don't like to bake. I will do it (with a box mix) or for a special occassion (husband's birthday, etc.) but never for fun. I find that a lot of food blogs focus on dessert items, probably because they are so delicate and beautiful. While that is all fine and good, I never actually use any of those recipes. I like the stove top. Give me some pans and spatulas, some things to fry, and I'm a happy girl.

This dislike of baking has a down side...I like to EAT those baked goods! And they don't just appear on the counter all by themselves. Anyway, long story short, I had seen this recipe a long time ago. I guess it was rolling around in the back of my brain while I was in the grocery store, because I saw pears and thought "Oh, I'll make a dessert with those! Maybe something with oats!". So, I can't take complete credit for this, but it was a pretty successful first attempt at something new.

Stovetop Pear Crumble
Serves 2-4
1/2 stick butter
1/3 c brown sugar
1/2 c quick oats
2 ripe pears, sliced into 4-5 pieces each (peeled or not peeled, it's up to you)
A pinch of nutmeg
Vanilla ice cream (optional...but come on, you know you want to)

Heat a large pan on medium heat. Add the butter and allow to melt. Next, add the brown sugar and incorporate with the butter. Allow this to remain on medium heat until it becomes a type of thick syrup (if it looks a little dry, add a bit more butter), about 2 minutes. When the mixture is gently bubbling, add the pear slices. Allow the pear slices to heat up for 2-3 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring every so often to coat the pear slices in the sauce. Sprinkle a pinch of nutmeg over the pears.

Add the oats, a bit at a time. You want the oats to soak up all the sauce, and to be fully coated in it. Stop adding oats when the sauce is absorbed, and the oats are clumping together (it ends up having a praline-like taste).

Remove from the heat, and serve immediately over a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Apr 20, 2010

Spring Chowder (and the only way I eat asparagus)

I realize that the words "spring" and "chowder" seem to be going in completely different directions, but hear me out. I normally think "chowder" and my stream of consciousness goes something like this: sausage, hearty, fall, cozy. I think spring and the words "light, sunny, flowers, fresh" come to mind. How do we reconcile these things? For me at least, the solution was...leftovers.

My sister had a baked potato BONANZA fundraiser last week: hence the leftovers. We took home a large ziploc bag of cooked broccoli florets as well as several baked potatoes. What to do with these giant things? I did what I usually do for inspriation. Go to the grocery store when I'm hungry. I picked up some milk, heavy cream, and (believe it or not) asparagus.

For those that don't know my dislike of asparagus, here it is. My Grandpa Floyd had a great big garden, and one of the things that he would always grow was, you guessed it, asparagus. Sounds great, right? A grandpa sharing his lovely home-grown vegetables with his kinfolk. Wrong! This is a vegetable that I DO NOT like. Not to mention the added pressure from my parents (asparagus-lovers) that "Grandpa grew this fresh, you should eat some!". Sorry folks, not my thing. So due to that, I've avoided that veggie like the plague.

Until...they were roasted. I went over to a family friend's house for dinner, and when given the menu report I heard the vegetable on the menu was asparagus. Well...I should be polite I suppose. I will eat a few bites and then quickly move on to the other offerings. I was sorely mistaken. This asparagus was roasted on parchment paper in the oven, drizzled with olive oil, salt, and freshly grated parmesan cheese. My whole asparagus world changed that day.

Back to the chowder. I had determined that I would use the potatoes and broccoli to make some type of chowder. But I wanted a little extra. So, I grabbed that beautiful asparagus, roasted it in the oven at 375 degrees for 15 minutes, and went to work. The result was a hearty, yet healthy solution to my leftover dilemma. It resembled a homemade "cream of" soup, but with some nice substance added in. Creamy, light, but somehow still rich because of the broth. And a little zip to boot.

Spring Chowder
Serves 4
2 large potatoes, baked and chopped into bite-size pieces (I left the peels on, do whatever you want)
2 c broccoli florets, cooked
1 c asparagus, roasted (see below)
1/8 c freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/2 c heavy cream
2 c milk
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp garlic, minced
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
1/2 tsp sage
1 tsp celery seed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (or go bold and add some more!)
Salt and pepper to taste
(you will also need an immersion blender, or a regular blender will work fine)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place asparagus on parchment paper (easy clean-up!) and drizzle with olive oil. Add a pinch of salt and some freshly grated parmesan (the more the better for me...in the oven it turns into an AMAZING thing!). Roast for 15 minutes, allow to cool and then chop into bite-size pieces (about 1 c).

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Put the 2 remaining tbsp of olive oil in the pot and roast the garlic until "california tan" (thanks, Guy Fieri for that term!). Add the butter and flour in equal parts and allow the flour to "cook" for a minute to get rid of the "floury" taste. Stir to incorporate the butter and flour together. Ta-da, a roux! Turn the heat down to med-low and add the heavy cream. Note how the roux thickens the cream...it will do the same thing when you add the milk. Toss in half of your potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus. Slowly add about 1 c of milk and allow the mixture to heat up and thicken.

Time to immerse and blend! If you are using a stand blender, take care not to burn yourself while pouring the mixture in and out of the blender. Blend to a smooth puree...this is the "cream of" part I was referring to.

To this creamy broth add the rest of the potatoes, broccoli, and asparagus. Add your seasonings and the rest of the milk, and keep on medium heat until everything is up to the same temperature (tip: err on the side of too runny for the broth...the potatoes can act as a thickening agent, and leftovers always thicken up as well).

Serve with some bread to sop it up, and enjoy!

Apr 12, 2010

Test Run

So this is a bit outdated now, but I still wanted to share with you.

Do you read this blog? You should, it's a pretty good find.

Just recently a "community blog" feature was added that will allow readers to do their own guest posts for whichever (food-related) topic they choose. Have a great idea or recipe to share and you don't have a food blog? No problem! I got to be one of the testers for the community section before it was announced. You can read my post, a restaurant review, here.

I think the whole community concept is pretty exciting, actually. It is a great way to promote discussion and sharing among people like us who are looking for some new food inspiration.

This won't be the last time you hear me sing the accolades of the restaurant in the community post. If you happen to be in Sheboygan, WI anytime soon, you really should stop by. Your taste buds will thank you.

Apr 10, 2010

Hello, Saturday

Good morning everyone!

That's it. Just a picture of a tasty apple streusel muffin. :-)

Apr 7, 2010

Upgrade the chop

Sometimes you find a beautiful cut of meat and just have to cook with it right away.

Enter the pork chops.

Yeah, I know...big deal. "It's just pork chops!" But aren't they lovely?

We made these on a brisk Wisconsin evening, so they had to be cooked indoors. I decided to give my cast-iron grill pan a rest, and broke out the Emerilware pan instead. The cooking process was pretty basic, really. A small amount of vegetable oil in the pan, heated to medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chops, and cook for about 7 minutes on each side, or until internal temperature reaches about 160 degrees (you are looking for 165 degrees, but the meat should continue to heat up for a few minutes while resting).

To accompany these bad-boy pork chops, I steamed some broccoli. Not rocket science. But a small twist: orange zest. It scents the broccoli in a subtle but noticable way, and adds some brightness to the veggies on the plate. It's also a great way to add aroma and flavor but not add "American flavor" (a.k.a. SALT).

Allright, so we've got some chops a'grilling, and some steamed broccoli on the side. Something is missing. We need an upgrade. A great way to make any type of mediocre event better--wine.

We had this tart and tasty cranberry wine which my dad had brought over. There was half a bottle left. Perfect. (I have this thing for cranberry wine, especially ones made in Wisconsin...more on that in another post)

I put the wine in a pan on medium heat until it started to reduce. It probably simmered for 10-15 minutes, until it was so thick that it could be described as a syrup instead of a reduction. The consistency was perfectly clingy. A tart but sweet sauce to top the chops with. Pork chop upgrade: complete!

Apr 5, 2010

Oh Those Leftovers

Seriously, how many people are eating leftover spiral ham today? We aren't excluded from that group. Those leftovers are tasty, especially with the glaze my mom put on it. But it needed something new. A nice partner in crime.

Solution? Sweet potato chips.

I mean really, fried stuff makes everything better.

My parents got us a deep-fryer as a house-warming gift. They must know us well :-)

We sliced the sweet potato with a mandoline into maybe 1/16th inch thick chips. Feel free to go thinner than that...what is most important is to have the thickness be uniform. The chips cook evenly this way. We heated our vegetable oil to 325 degrees and cooked the chips for about 4 minutes. As soon as they were done, we put them on a wire rack to drain and sprinkled them with salt and freshly cracked black pepper. The slight sweetness with the ham was just what we were looking for.

Apr 3, 2010


I have something to confess...I've been afraid of risotto. Well, not "afraid" in the phobia sense. It's just always seemed like an intimidating dish, so I've avoided it.
That is, until this week.

The stars were all aligned for this dish. I had to use up the rest of this stock and we had some broccoli that needed to be used up. Broccoli risotto. Well, ok...time to wing it.

As usual, I don't really use a recipe. I had an idea of what I needed: onion, garlic, wine, stock, parmesan, arborrio rice. What order? No idea. What quantity? Again, no idea. But hey, look at that, there's an ingredient list on the side of the rice box (Trader Joe's rice too...I love them more all the time).

So anyway, using their ingredient list and ignoring the quantities, I followed the order of operation. The result...


Seriously, why have I not made this before??

Here's the play-by-play, in case you haven't made risotto either.

Begin by heating up 2-3 cups of vegetable or chicken stock in a saucepan until simmering.

In a large pot, melt some butter on medium heat. Maybe 3 tbsp? Then, add some minced onions, say 1/4 cup. Sweat them until they become translucent. Add a tbsp of garlic and saute until golden. Now, add the rice. I used 3 palm-fulls (the recipe said 12 oz). Stir the rice in with the sauteed onions and garlic until the rice is clear. If the mixture starts to stick too much, add a little more butter.

Now the fun part--add the (white) wine. I had to break open my favorite seafood wine because everything else we had was red (if I had more options I'd probably use a sauvignon blanc). I used about 1/3 cup. Continue to cook on medium heat until the white wine is absorbed. Add the heated stock, one cup at a time, until the rice absorbs it. Continue this process for about 20 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked (you are looking for a smooth, not runny or pasty texture). I added the broccoli florets about halfway through this process so they would be perfectly cooked by the end.

When the rice is cooked, take it off the heat and shred parmesan into the pot, about 1/8 cup. Stir it quickly into the rice so it doesn't clump together. As the cheese melts it will add a great texture to the dish.

My husband rates my dishes (don't worry, I ask him to). It is a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best. This dish got a 9. Need I say more?