Saturday, July 31, 2010

Grilled Cheese? ummm...yeah, but no :)

I really started feeling a bit guilty with my forays into culinary weirdness - all those recipes with soda in it -ick.  So, I decided to take a short break (Culinary weirdness will be back next week - but the over 21 version) and offer you an utterly decadent twist on the american staple - grilled cheese.

The staple of the American household - a myriad of combinations, possibilities, from the plain old white-bread-American-Cheese to fancy combos like sourdough-chopped olives-fresh-mozzarella-roasted-peppers, or anywhere else your imagination takes you.

My daughter and I went to this new place that opened up in Catonsville - it's called Grilled Cheese & Company and they serve...grilled cheese.  We got the "Veggie Delight", but we also got a "dessert" grilled cheese bet you never thought of grilled cheese as a "dessert" food, did you? Well, they did, and it was awesome.  I decided to replicate the recipe for your gustatory pleasure.

Before I give you the ingredients, please throw out ANY notions you have of "eww...but I don't like Brie" because you will *not* taste it.  It melts at a very low temperature, makes everything nice and gooey along with the other stuff in there.  Ben doesn't like Brie, yet he liked this sandwich of course I didn't TELL him it had Brie in it, because I wanted him to try it.  He thought it was "ok", and "not bad",  but Meg and I loved it.  It's almost like a decadent bread pudding but not as custardy - The bread gives a chewy finish to the raspberry/chocolate combo that is held together by the brie and mascarpone.  All I can do is say try it.   I really doubt anyone will say "EWwww..." I think most people will say "Yummmmmmm!"  Unless of course, you don't like grilled cheese...then I think you're outta luck.

Dessert Grilled Cheese - serves 2-4 (printable recipe is HERE)

4 slices of good quality bread Please do NOT use any kind of Wonder bread crap - splurge on a loaf from the bakery - the kind that has a "bite" to it, i.e. is a bit chewy and dense.
Mascarpone cheese just buy the smallest tub you can find.  It's Italian Cream Cheese, but it has a different, milder flavor than our cream cheese, and it's a bit softer.
6 slices of brie cut thin slices (about 1/4" thick) from a wedge, and trim off the end.  See photos.  You can keep the rind on the top and bottom.
2 TBS of Raspberry jam or any other preserves/jam you'd like to use.  Just no jelly. I used Breezy Willow Farms "Chocolate Razzamatazz" and omg is it heaven.  Pick some up if you're local - if you're not, msg me :-)
3 TBS of semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.  Spread a thin layer of mascarpone cheese onto one slice of bread.  Top this with the jam, then sprinkle about 10-12 chocolate chips over this (you don't need a lot - they will melt and spread)

2.  Place 3 wedges of brie on the other slice.  Slap those puppies together, and heat your frying pan to medium.  Notice where I trimmed the rind off the brie? at the fat end...

3.  Now...melt a bit of butter in the pan, enough to cover a slice of bread, and put the sandwich in the pan, moving it around, so it sops up the butter.  Cook til' golden brown.  Put sandwich on the spatula, melt some more butter in the pan, spreading it around so it's breadslicesize, then flip sandwich over onto the melted butter, and again, swirl it around to get it coated.  Cook til' golden brown.

4.  Plate, cut in half, and serve.  Serves 4 if you each have a half, 2 if you eat a whole one by yourself.

*To make it look pretty, you can garnish the plate with fresh berries and a mint sprig, and dust the sandwich with some confectioner's sugar...if you can wait that long to eat it.*

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Forays into culinary weirdness - part 3 cos "things go better with Coke"

Continuing my forays into culinary weirdness, I decided to try another recipe with soda.  This intrigued me.  I googled "soda recipes" and was amazed at how many there were, from steaks to cakes, and everything in between.  Some sounded gross, like spaghetti sauce made with Dr. Pepper.  I'm adventurous, but not that adventurous.  There is a recipe for 7-up chicken  Tina, you'll love this.  6 boneless chix breast halves, 1 tsp each seasoning salt and parsley, 2 tbs butter and a can of 7-up.  Throw it all into a crockpot and cook for 6-8 hours.  I did NOT try this recipe btw...I'm sorry I'm "chicken", but I can't imagine how it would taste after stewing in 7-up for 7 hours.  I may get the courage to try it later on, but after that "Goober burger" I'm sort of burnt out and need some recovery time.  Care to experiment Tina? You're the crockpot queen - you can let me know the results :-D
7 up Chicken

I did find a picture of the recipe (thanks Google!) but with a couple added veggies.  To be honest, it looks a bit pale to me, and if the only seasoning is salt, parsley, and 7up, it's going to be rather tasteless as well.  But I leave it up to you guys if you are brave enough to "foray into culinary weirdness" and try it.

I found a very simple recipe for "Coke Brownies"... no, you don't dust high grade cocaine over the top of the brownies instead of confectioner's sugar - get your minds out of the gutter.  You make the brownies with a can of Coca Cola, because everyone knows...

"things go better with Coke". 

I decided that seemed benign enough, and my local supermarket was having a sale on brownie mix, $1/box, so I'd only be out a buck if the recipe sucked.

It couldn't have been more simple.  Open brownie mix, dump into bowl.  Add one can of Coca Cola, mix.  Pour into 9 x 13 pan, bake according to package directions (350 degrees for 27 minutes)

Cool and "enjoy" Please note the quotes around "Enjoy".  That's a hint.  I dusted the top with confectioner's sugar, and cut a piece.  Looks pretty, but rather flat.  It's a very dense, gooey brownie. 

I bit into it - chocolately, but "meh".  You can't taste the cola, it really adds nothing to the brownie - although it's pretty, it's also pretty bad.  I much prefer the normal brownie mix.  It's lighter with more flavor.  There was 3/4 of a pan left five days later that does NOT happen in my house, thanks to my hubby and son. which I tossed in the garbage.  I think if you wanted to try this at home, you may want to add the egg the box calls for - they're just too flat without it.

Sorry y'all, I just can't get into coca cola brownies.  My next foray into culinary weirdness has alcohol involved (all in the safety of my own home) and no displays of behavior you would /facepalm in the morning about, but it is an interesting adventure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Forays into Culinary weirdness part 2 - Hey Gooberrrrr!

Goober is a Southern word for peanut.  It can also be a term of endearment, or an insult depending on how you use it, and WHO you use it on.  Andy of Mayberry also had a friend Goober, who ran the local gas station.  He had a brother named Gomer.
Goober Pyle

Continuing my summer sojourn into the weird, I stayed south (sort of) and found another thing weird to try - a Goober Burger.  Supposedly these originated at a place called the "Wheel-in Drive in" in Sedalia, Missouri.  It closed for good in 2008, so don't think about running out there and trying one.  You'll have to get your fix somewhere else.

I saw an episode of "Bizarre Foods" with Andrew Zimmern where he bit into a Goober burger (made in Minnesota) with gusto, and loved every bite.  I also perused some blogs that raved about them, and a friend of mine also swears by them. me (a food purist) that just sounds weird and potentially stomach turning, but I figured "what the hell".

I assembled my ingredients and decided to spring this on my unsuspecting family. The less they know the better.  Ben must have had a premonition that I was up to something that may have gastronomical implications, because he decided not to show up for dinner at the last minute.  That left hubby as the sole guinea pig for my gooberish experiment.  Since Mother Nature decided to dump some much needed rain in our vicinity, grilling was not an option, so I chose to pan fry the burgers.  I put a dollop of Jif on the burger and let it get gooey, as per instructions.
I then toasted the bun, and slathered mayo on both sides. You know, my stomach still turns as bit as I think of this.
I then added the obligatory lettuce and tomato, cut the burger in half, and served it to my unsuspecting hubby.  "It's an experiment" is all I said.  I repeat...the less they know...the better.
He took a bite, chewed thoughtfully, then said "Does this have peanut butter on it?" I nodded.  He then replied "I think peanut butter is best left off a burger" threw his half out, and chowed down on the one on his plate, and the extra in the pan.

I really can't see what all the hoo-ha is about.  It tastes like peanut butter on meat.  If you can imagine that, then no need to waste a burger and try it.  I don't think it enhances the flavor of the beef, I don't think it adds anything - if anything the peanut butter detracts from the beef.  I don't find it yummy at all.  I much prefer my burgers pristine - a slice of cheese, some onion, lettuce, tomato.  Nothing else, nothing weird unless it's avocado, which I don't think is weird at all - although some people might - especially from Europe, where they don't see avocados really.  Once I made some guacamole for a group of Danish students, and getting them to even TRY it was difficult - "'s...GREEN!" they would say in their lovely Danish accents..."Yes" I would reply "But it's GOOD - and so are other green things like veggies - TRY it!"  Finally, ONE student tried it and pronounced it "gud!" everyone else was chicken.  Of course, the Texas kids lapped it up.  They know good when they see it :)

However, to be honest, I think this is one of those things where you either love it or you hate it - there's no "meh" in Goober Burgers.  It's either YUK! or YUM!  So, if you are epicurious, go ahead and try one.  Put the peanut butter on, let it get gooey - dollop of mayo (or slather the bun) pickle, lettuce, tomato (although some say lettuce and tomato are optional) and let me know if you are in the YUK or YUM camp.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pancakes - they ain't heavy, nor a bother

Sorry for the horrid pun title - I couldn't resist.

(btw, my forays into culinary weirdness will continue next week - I needed a break from these weird food combos I've been trying)

My hubby usually complains because I rarely make pancakes.  "Why" you ask..."Everyone loves pancakes".  Well, for one thing, they are HEAVY.  They lay like lead in your stomach.  Ugh.  The other thing is that merged household conflict.  My mom made great pancakes.  There were more along the Scandanavian idea of a pancake - light, buttery with crisp edges.  Hubby likes his made in a nonstick pan with no butter at all in the pan, because it doesn't give the pancakes that uniform golden color.  You know what I mean, like the kind you get at iHop.  Plus, he was a "short order cook" (as a kid on the boardwalk in Asbury Park for a single summer - yet this makes him an expert :-P)

 he always brings that up whenever I make: french toast, pancakes, or grilled cheese almost to the point of being insufferable because inevitably I am making them "wrong". However, when asked in a kind tone if HE would like to SHOW me how to make them "correctly", he passes. Every time.

Anyway, my mother -in -law was visiting for the weekend, and I had a plethora of blueberries fresh from my CSA pick up.  Blueberry pancakes sounded good, so I went to the fridge to see what else I had laying around - a lemon, some leftover buttermilk, and plenty of eggs, butter, and milk.  Perfect!

I love blueberries and lemon combo.  Scrumptious.  Yummy.  Light. Summer.  Tasty, and just about any other positive adjective you can think of. 

I found a recipe for buttermilk pancakes that I added my own twist to.  Thank you Emeril, for providing a great foundation. BAM!!!!!!!!

Buttermilk.  Such a misunderstood thing.  It's low fat (yay) and it tenderizes the gluten in flour, so you get a lighter product.  You can use it in biscuits, frosting, baked goods, and yes...PANCAKES.  Oh...and did I mention it stays "good" in your refrigerator for a long time? like...weeks?  So it gives you plenty of time to think of other yummy things to do with it - experiment, throw out the flops, and enjoy the successes.

"old fashioned" buttermilk is what's left of the cream after you churn the heck out of it and make butter.  The stuff you buy in the store is "cultured" buttermilk - they use a lactic acid starter, mix it with milk, and you get this relatively thickish golden low-fat stuff that has a tangy taste akin to sour cream or yogurt.   You can also make some in a pinch by adding a 1/4 cup of vinegar to a quart of milk, let it sit for a few minutes, then shake.   If you only need a cup, then it's 1 tbs of vinegar to 1 cup of milk.

So...this recipe is simple.  And I guarantee light pancakes that will float down to your stomach instead of dropping like a brick and remaining there for the rest of the morning. Printable recipe is HERE

You will need:

1 cup of buttermilk
1 cup of flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/8 tsp. salt (don't measure it, just shake a bit in there)
2 tbs. butter
1 egg
1-2 cups of blueberries tossed in a bit of flour.
1 tbs. grated lemon zest

First, melt the butter in a glass bowl in the microwave.  Add the buttermilk and egg to it, and whisk away til' combined.  Now, take the dry ingredients, dump them all into a sifter, and sift it over the liquid. Please don't omit this step - it takes all of 2 minutes, and will give you a lighter, fluffier pancake.  Your gut thanks you. 

Whisk gently til' combined, then stir in the zest and mix by hand (*note* - if you have lemon haters in your house, just omit the zest).  Gently fold in the blueberries and let sit for a few minutes while you heat up the griddle - Medium to medium-high is a good place to start. 

A trick to know whether or not the pan is hot enough, is to throw a couple of drops of cold water on it.  If they "dance" around - it's hot enough. BTW...this is the heat you want if you are in the "don't grease the griddle IHOP pancake style" camp.  If you are of the "What? no Buttah?! RIDIC!" camp, then read on.  For those that prefer their pancakes cooked with some butter, lower the heat to medium, medium low.  Be warned, the butter will brown, but it should not be smoking or black mmm...K?

Pour 1/4 cup of the batter into the pan (4 usually fit in a large skillet) When little bubbles form and the edges are dry, prepare to flip.  Turn over (rebutter pan if you are a "buttery" nut) and brown the other side. 

Store in a warm oven (170 F) til ready to serve.  Makes about 12-14  1/4 cup pancakes, or you can make 4 giant ones - your choice.  Serves 3-4 depending on appetites, but these are so light, figure 3 :)  AND...the leftovers taste just as good at room temperature as they did right out of the pan - that is...if you HAVE any leftovers.

Make sure the people you are making the pancakes for like lemon.  It's not a strong flavor, it mingles well with the blueberries and the two compliment each other quite nicely.  However, if they "don't like lemon :-P", you make be stuck with leftovers...
which is not a bad thing...But you may find the leftovers mysteriously disappear a few hours later as you prepare to chow down on them for supper....

"oh...that pile of blueberry pancakes on the stove? Erm...I think I ate them - they're gone." 

"I think I ate them"?!! how can you not be sure? I thought you didn't like lemon?  Perhaps that smudge of blueberry on the corner of your mouth may jog your memory a bit? hmmm?

just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A foray into culinary weirdness.

OK.  I was perusing the "Cafe World" forum the other day yes, I am one of your FB friends that tries not to spam up your page with notifications from various games - I have a "nongamer" list that I always choose "hide from" when posting anything remotely spam-ish and they had a thread with "real" recipes.  I decided to take a peek.  Some looked yummy, but there was one that was so weird, it caught my eye and my curiosity.  You know the old saying "curiosity killed the cat" well, it may kill the chef as well, because I decided to take a journey down the lane of weirdness known as..."Southern cooking".

Now, before all y'all get your panties twisted in a knot, let me remind you of some of the southern culinary gems:

1.  Bananas, Bacon, and mayo sandwiches. (Elvis' favorite)
2.  Burgoo
3.  Potato Chip and mayo sandwich (I actually had a friend from the South that ate these when he was a kid)
4.  Cakes and desserts made with soda - usually Coke, Dr. Pepper, or Mt. Dew.
5.  Pickle pops
6.  Goober burgers (although it originated in Missouri, it's kinda the "south")

So...this recipe was for "Peach Enchiladas", although I think it's more like a cobbler.  It has Mountain Dew in it. 

Yup "yooHOO! Mountain DEW!"  - the stuff that looks like antifreeze.  My initial reaction was EWWWWWW - how gross is that?.  Then I started getting intrigued, and I decided to make the recipe as an experiment.  I mean really - how do people come UP with these things? 

I imagine a bunch of Southern women sitting on the veranda one hot July night drinking Rednecks (Mountain Dew + Southern Comfort) and after about the fifth one, that's when one lady prolly says "Hey y'all...Ah just LOVE this heah Mountain DEW...whatcha think we all kin mayke with it?"  And the ladies giggle, take a sip of their Rednecks, then one says "Well, Ah love me some enchiladas" and another says  "an' there isn't anything bettah than a rahpe peach right off tha tree" and a third says "OH AH GOT IT! Peach Encheelahdas with MOUNTAIN DEW WHOO HOO!!!" and all the ladies say "YEAAAAAHHHH!!!!!!!!!!"

So, I made it. It's very simple.  And it's not half bad.  I was amazed.  To be honest, I just made this recipe on a lark, cos I thought how could this be good? but it was surprisingly tasty.   You can easily double this recipe for a crowd, but for now it will probably feed about 4-6, depending on how piggy your guests are about sweet stuff.  If you have a spontaneous get together at your house, then this would be an acceptable dessert to make when they're all coming over inside of an hour.

You will need:

1 package of Crescent rolls
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 stick of butter
6 oz of Mountain Dew (that's half a can y'all)
peaches - fresh or frozen (not sure about canned, since they are already sweetened I would shy away from them).  if you are using fresh, skin them and slice them.  If you are using frozen, you don't need to thaw them prior to cooking.  It's easier to roll them up frozen.

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Open the can of Crescent Rolls, and unroll them flat.  Separate the wedges.

3.  Take about 3-4 peach slices and put them on the fat end of the Crescent roll, then roll it up and place it in an 8 inch baking dish.  Do the same with the rest of the rolls.

4.  Melt the butter - add the sugar and cinnamon, and pour that mess over the top of the

 rolls.  Then pour the half a can of Mountain Dew on top of that.

5.  Bake for 40 minutes.

You get a nice crisp crust on top, and sort of a peach pie-y center with a sauce that has a hint of cinnamon.  I don't know if the Mountain Dew is even necessary - I have an extra container of Crescent Rolls, I may have to experiment once this batch is gone.  But stick a scoop of Vanilla ice cream on top, and it's plum good, and passable to feed friends in a pinch.

Maybe some day I'll get the guts to try banana, mayo and bacon...nah...I can feel my arteries clogging just at the mention of it.  Sorry Elvis, I'll pass for now.

I decided to have some fun this summer with my blog.  I know, I know...I'm a health food nut - I eschew processed foods, I always cook fresh with mostly organic or natural ingredients.  No chemical crap for me, no siree, Bob.  However, everyone needs a vacation now and then, a break from the mundane or the norm, and a trip that could turn into an adventure - Vacations are for trying new things and having fun - so over the summer I'm going to try and bring some food combinations that sound well...reaaaaalllly weird and bring them to you, my few readers :)  Some may be yummy, some may be yukky, but I promise to take you vicariously on each journey with honest and hopefully entertaining commentary - because if there's one thing I know how to do, it's speak my mind.