June 4, 2014

Grape Cakes

Have you ever baked grapes?

It’s weird and funny. But kinda tasty.

Especially when you bake them into mini cakes.

Made out of pancake batter.

I started this blog as a record of my adventures in the kitchen, and this was sure a quirky little jaunt, if not a full out adventure.

These grapes were staring me in the face. Taunting me really. Bake me bake me, they shouted as I took out milk for my cereal or veggies for a salad.

But grapes are not a super common item in baked goods, at least not in their full fresh glory. So, I figured I would need something a little funky.

I adapted my favorite pancake recipe and plunked a grape in each. As any good kitchen scientist would do, I also made some control groups: halved grapes, strawberry slices, brown sugar, and plain.

The cakes themselves were delish! The grape was a little surprise tart burst in the middle. The sliced grapes probably work a little better than the whole ones. As far as my other control groups – the brown sugar topped cakes may have a future home in my breakfast repertoire. They were GOOD.

The downsides of this adventure? I should have used muffin tin liners – these guys stuck to the sides of the pan like it was their JOB. Also, the ones with fruit are really best when warm. The next day, they were a little less quirky and a little more funky.

As all adventures go, I learned some lessons, saw some sights, and got some stories to take back to the campfire. Plus I made something called grape cakes. That’s enough for me!

Grape Cakes
makes about 20-24 mini muffins

Ingredients

4T butter, melted and cooled
1/4 c plain greek yogurt
1/2 c skim milk
1 egg
1 cup flour
2 T sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
grapes, cut in half

Line a mini-muffin tin with liners and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Whisk together yogurt, milk, and egg, and then slowly whisk in butter. In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Fold wet ingredients into dry ones, being careful not to overmix.

Fill the mini-muffin tins about 1/2-3/4 full. Plop a grape, cut side up, into the center of each muffin. Do not press down – it will sink on its own. Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden and set. Let cool about 5 minutes in the pan. These treats are best enjoyed warm!

 

 

 

June 2, 2014

Make-It-Work Monday: Spinach Artichoke Pizza

My grown-up self has a secret for my child self.

Spinach is actually really good. Artichokes will not make you choke to death in disgust.

See, child self, the trick to making these seemingly icky and impossibly horrible vegetables actually super delicious is to hide them inside a creamy cheesy blanket called “Spinach Artichoke Dip” and then eat it on lots of carby things like crackers and chips.

Now, child self, if you really want to disguise your veggies, take those precise ingredients and turn them into…. PIZZA.

This is a super easy, quick, versatile recipe – perfect for a week night supper.

If you feel fancy you can make your own dough. I have been advised by my husband to not try this at home. Again. (However, I have had other successful attempts at disguising veggies as pizza).

Luckily my supermarket sells pizza dough from a local bakery which is rad. So while my oven was preheating to a very hot 500 degrees F, I just stretched that baby out like I was born to do it.

Actually I didn’t stretch it out thin enough (Make it work…)

I also cooked a little garlic in some oil and tossed in some chopped baby spinach. Squeezed a little lemon in to the mixture, too.

The pizza gets topped with the spinach and oil mixture, then sprinkled with mozzarella (fresh mozz would be nice, but I just had shredded on hand), artichoke hearts, and then, for the finishing touch, tuck some little nuggets of goat cheese in there.

The trick is transferring this baby into the hot oven. I don’t have a proper pizza stone – just a few small tiles that I put together. When I slid the pizza as quickly as I could onto the stones, of course they separated a bit and then my oven started smoking like crazy and I thought all might be lost.

 

But, it was a make it work moment and it turned out just fine! The key is making sure the bottom of your crust is VERY floured (or cornmeal works great too) and that you have  the pizza on a nice thin, flat, slide-able surface to get it in the oven.

So, grown-up me to child me. Eat your veggies. (Just disguise them first with cheese and bread and oil.)

Spinach Artichoke Pizza
adapted from Half-Baked Harvest
makes 2 pizzas

1 lb pizza dough, split into two balls (room temp)
1/4 cup oil
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
big handful of baby spinach, chopped small
half a small lemon’s juice (this is a precise technical term, yes)
about a cup of mozzarella cheese, fresh or shredded (more or less to your taste)
about 4 oz goat cheese (I used garlic soft goat cheese, but you could also try feta for a different spin)
14 oz can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped roughly
pepper and salt to taste
dried basil for garnish

Preheat your oven to 500 degrees F. If that scares you, 450 will work too, but the hotter you can go, the crispier the crust! If you are using a pizza stone, let it preheat with the oven. Otherwise you can use a flat baking sheet.

While the oven preheats, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the garlic gently (i.e. don’t burn it. this can happen very quickly). Remove the pan from heat (or turn down very low) and toss in the spinach to wilt.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and add some salt and pepper to taste and lemon juice. Stir it up.

On a well-floured cutting board or baking sheet, stretch one of  your pizza dough balls to about 12 inches, trying to keep it to a pretty even thickness. Don’t worry too much about the roundness – it will still taste the same, I promise! This is a bit easier if the dough is room temp vs. straight out of the fridge.

Brush/spread half the oil and spinach mixture on the dough. Top with half the cheese, artichoke, and goat cheese. Sprinkle lightly with dried basil.

When the oven is heated fully, quickly open the door and slide the pizza with a large spatula (or two if you have a helper to hold the pan) onto the pizza stone. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until crust is golden and hollow sounding when tapped. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving. Repeat with other half of ingredients.

May 25, 2014

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble

Here is my story about Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble, in pictures:

The End.

 

Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
adapted from my backyard

Note: I made two of these at once and just doubled everything. It’s that good.

Ingredients

Filling:
1-1.5 lbs of fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2 pieces**
1 lb fresh strawberries, cut into quarters
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon lemon juice (more or less depending on your preference for tartness)
2 Tablespoons cornstarch

**Make sure to cut the leaves off 1/2 inch down the rhubarb stalk and wash the stalks (and your hands) well. Rhubarb leaves are poisonous.

Crumble
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cubed
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup oats
dash of salt

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set out a pie dish or 9×9 glass baking dish.

Stir together rhubarb, strawberries, and sugar in a big bowl and let sit and macerate (i.e. get juicy) for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, stir the cornstarch into the lemon juice (it may seem a bit stiff, don’t worry) and vanilla. Add the mixture into the fruit and stir well.

In a separate bowl, cut the butter into all the rest of the crumble ingredients, using a pastry cutter or your good old fashioned finger tips. This makes for a very buttery crumble, you could reduce by a few tablespoons if you are afraid. I am not afraid of butter.

Spoon the fruit into the bottom of the pie dish and top with crumble. The crumble should be thick and lumpy – but may not cover every inch of fruit.

Bake for about 1 hour or until the crumble is set and golden and the juices are bubbling. I recommend placing a rimmed baking sheet under your pie dish in the oven to avoid copious smoke in the case of spillage.

Note: This crumble is very juicy and quite tart. I prefer not to go overboard on the cornstarch/flour in the filling because it clouds the beautifulness of the fruit. Just jive with it, okay? It’s a crumble, not pie rocket science. If tart isn’t your thing, add more sugar or less lemon juice to the filling.

 

 

 

May 22, 2014

Blueberry Breakfast Treat

Sometimes it is important to say an extra thank you to the people you love.

Sometimes it is fun to surprise someone in the middle of a regular old work week.

Sometimes it is good to leave a warm blueberry treat on the counter before you slip out of the house to go to work.

It will make you smile all day.

Blueberry Breakfast Surprise

Serves 1-2 people

Filling:
Large handful of blueberries (enough to fill 2 ramekins almost to the top)
1 T flour
spoonful of sugar ( to taste)
squeeze of lemon

Topping:
1 T brown sugar
2 T butter, cut into chunks
2 T flour
sprinkle of salt
dash of vanilla

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter 2 oven-proof ramekins. Stir together filling ingredients.

Use your fingers to combine the topping ingredients until crumbly. Divide between the two ramekins.

Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until juices bubble and top is golden. Surprise someone you love.

May 18, 2014

Make-It-Work Monday: Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake

What’s for dinner this week?

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake.

This is like a grown up version of something they serve at daycare preschool. Its cheesy and warm and has those little bite size chicken bits in it. It’s only grown up because it has TWO vegetables in it.

Confession: this recipe was inspired by something I stumbled across on the Country Crock website a while ago. Yes. Me. A site for “buttery spread.”

Listen. Don’t judge until you have made this (but please use real butter. Please.) The Mr. loved this so instantly that it went straight on a recipe card and became a regular favorite.

This is a good recipe to make ahead or make parts ahead. You can also substitute in other vegetables as you see fit, or use other leftover cooked chicken that you might have around.

It is the perfect Monday comfort food and makes great leftovers!!

Cheesy Chicken Broccoli Bake

Ingredients

2 cooked chicken breasts (or about 2 cups cut up chicken)**
4 cups chopped veggies (I use red pepper and broccoli, cut up small)
3 Tablespoons butter
3 cups milk
1/4 cup flour
2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Garlic powder, onion powder, salt an pepper to taste

**I like to poach my chicken by boiling some chicken or vegetable stock in a sauce pan and dropping the chicken in. Cooking time will depend on thickness of meat and if it was completely thawed, so check a piece every 5 min until the inside is no longer pink. Discard stock.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Sauté the vegetables in butter and/or oil until they are crisp-tender (now raw but still have a snap when you bite in). Place in au gratin dish (or other casserole dish) along with chicken.

In the same pan, melt the butter over medium low heat. Sprinkle the flour over the butter, whisking constantly to avoid forming clumps. Add milk slowly and cook until mixture thickens slightly and loses the floury taste. Add in cheese gradually, whisking until smooth. Pour cheese mixture over vegetables and chicken and give a little stir to make sure it gets distributed.

Bake at 350 for about 20-30 minutes or until golden. Or stop before baking, let cheese cool, cover with Saran Wrap and keep in fridge for up to 2 days before baking.

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