Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Brown Butter Peach Shortbread Bars


Well, it's official. I have become obsessed with brown butter. Ever since the last Daring Baker's Challenge, all I can think about is that velvety nutty smell filling my house, and the taste...oh the taste! I utterly HAD to have some again. And since I had a few peaches getting soft on my counter that I had intended for the upcoming Daring Cook's Challenge (oh, look at that, another hint!) but ended up not using, I wanted a recipe to incorporate both. And what do you know, it's darling Smitten Kitchen to the rescue. It was like she read my mind - the second I wanted a peachy/brown butter recipe, BAM, she posted one. Man I love her.

These bars are fantastic! They are really light - in texture and flavor. They aren't overly sweet or rich, definitely a perfect "end of summer, oh my god it's hot" dessert. The flavor of the brown butter really comes through, and my super ripe peaches add a perfectly peachy punch. Plus I love how you can see bits of yellow, orange and red poking through the crumble topping. 

I found these bars to be challenging to make. Not because they were hard. They weren't. In fact, I am so glad that they were really super easy to make because I decided to make it harder on myself. See, I've been reading a lot on "baby wearing" lately, and how good it is for the baby to be with you while you do your daily tasks - that they not only enjoy it, but that it is good for their mental development. So we got a great baby carrier, and the little cupcake DOES love it! We take walks almost every day, and she has gone to the farmers market with me in it. Before now, though, I had kept it strictly to walking activities - I hadn't really done any household chores or anything. However, on this day, my husband was gone, and I didn't want to just put her in her swing/bouncy chair/on the floor where the dogs will surely maul her when I am not looking. In the carrier we went! And let me tell you - it was nice having her there, but it was HARD! Why do you ask? Because this was the only thing I could see:

I kept getting a crook in my neck because I was having to look around her cute little head that was so perfectly in my way! (And yes, it was rather difficult to take those pictures, but I did it just for you!)

I've been storing mine in the fridge, and I really love them cold! If you are short on time, or you happen to not be utterly in love with brown butter like I am, you can omit the step of browning the butter, you can use the same amount of softened unsalted butter and increase the flour to a full 3 cups. Although why you would want to do this, I don't know. 

Brown Butter Peach Shortbread Bars

1 cup (7 ounces or 200 grams) white sugar
1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking powder
2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (12 5/8 ounces or 359 grams) cups all-purpose flour (or you can measure 3 cups and remove 2 tablespoons flour)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon (2 grams) salt
1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces or 227 grams) cold unsalted butter
1 large egg
2 peaches, pitted and thinly sliced (between 1/8 and 1/4-inch thick)

Melt butter in a small/medium saucepan over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Keep your eyes on it; it burns very quickly after it browns and the very second that you turn around to do something else. 
Set it in the freezer until solid (about 30 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). 
Butter a 9×13 inch pan, or spray it with a nonstick spray. 
In a medium bowl, stir together sugar, baking powder, flour, salt and spices with a whisk. 
Use a pastry blender, fork or your fingertips, blend the solidified brown butter and egg into the flour mixture. It will be crumbly. 
Pat 3/4 of the crumbs into the bottom of the prepared pan, pressing firmly. 
Tile peach slices over crumb base in a single layer. 
Scatter remaining crumbs evenly over peaches.
Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, until top is slightly brown and you can see a little color around the edges. 
Cool completely in pan before cutting into squares.
Yum

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Daring Cook's Preserve Stuff!


I was really excited about this month's Daring Cook's Challenge! I have been wanting to try this for a very long time, I just hadn't forced myself to do it!

The September 2010 Daring Cooks’ challenge was hosted by John of Eat4Fun. John chose to challenge The Daring Cooks to learn about food preservation, mainly in the form of canning and freezing. He challenged everyone to make a recipe and preserve it. John’s source for food preservation information was from The National Center for Home Food Preservation.


I really wanted to make some Apple Butter, but as of right now I just haven't had time! But as soon as the Apple Orchards open up, I am so all over it! I did, however, decide to do something that I have been wanting to try my hand at! I decided to make BABY FOOD!

Now it may not seem that difficult, and really, it isn't. The hardest part of this is knowing when and what to feed your infant. However, there are a lot of really great resources out there, and I learned quite a lot. I am so excited to be able to introduce my baby to the wonderful world of food, and why not do it with wholesome, organic, yummy food that I have prepared myself?! I will know exactly where it came from, under what conditions it was prepared, everything that went into it (including love, aww!) and how long it sat before it was consumed. Of course I am going to make it myself - especially now that I know how easy it is!

I was totally prepared to completely stock my freezer with nothing but baby food this month, but I found a lot of conflicting information as to how long you can keep homemade baby food frozen. Some resources said up to 6 months, some said 3, and some said no longer than 1 month. I was rather discouraged by the fact that it could not keep longer. No one really explained it veryh well, but it had something to do with the ice crystals that form during freezing, and upon thawing can change the consistency, texture, and flavor of the puree. I found the majority of the information went with 3 months, so I decided that was how long I would keep mine for. Which means that since my little cupcake is just now turning 3 months, I could neither make a large quantity of food nor a lot of "flavorful" food. Yet.

I stuck with the basics, some "first tastes". I purchased some organic green beans and squash from the farmers market and went to town.

Green Beans - I thoroughly washed the beans, and snapped the ends off. I then steamed them for 12 minutes, or until they were tender. I then blended them in my food processor and poured them into my steralized specialized baby food freezing container - aka an ice cube tray! BUT this one has a lid! (Everyone say it with me now - oooOOOoooh!) I did not water my puree down, as everything I read said that you should thin it out after you thaw it out. Then you can make it the desired consistency with water, prepared formula, or breastmilk.


Butternut Squash - Peel and cube a squash into 1" cubes. Steam for 15 minutes, or until tender. Transfer to a blender and process until silky smooth! Transfer to your prepared freezing container.

I CANNOT WAIT until December for my little one to be on solid foods to see how she likes these, and to make her many other fabulous creations! I just might even post them all! :)

Resources -

www.wholesomebabyfood.com  
                  
The Healthy Baby Meal Planner - Annabel Karmel (She has several books on feeding infants, toddlers and children that I found to be great. I've created a link on her name which will take you to all her books.

The Everything Organic Cooking for Baby and Toddler - Kim Lutz
Yum

Friday, September 10, 2010

Coke Glazed Wings


My dear husband has been hankering for some wings lately, and since I utterly despise buffalo wing sauce, I went on the hunt for something a little different. I stumbled upon this recipe, and immediately knew I had hit the jackpot. I have been itching for an ice cold glass of Coke lately, but am trying to stay away from caffeine for the little one's sake. I won't lie, though, I did sneak a sip. Or two.

The original recipe for these called for them to be broiled, but I don't really trust my broiler, and I didn't want to heat up my house with a hot oven. I decided to cook them in my cast iron pan instead. They turned out wonderfully! The flavor of the glaze is amazing and very complex! You can really distinguish all the different flavors, except for the jalapenos, which you couldn't really taste but gave it a tiny bit of heat. My husband thought it needed more jalapenos, but I thought it was perfect.

I think this glaze would also be perfect on grilled chicken breasts! 


Ingredients:

1 cup cola
Juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 jalapeno, finely minced (discard the seeds)
1 tablespoon cooking oil
2 pounds chicken wings
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small sauce pan, bring the soda, lime juice, brown sugar and the minced jalapeno to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low and simmer until the mixture is syrupy, about 30 minutes; keep warm over low heat.
Season the wings with salt and pepper.
Heat some oil in a large skillet.
Cook the chicken until browned nicely and mostly cooked through.
Pour the glaze over the wings and toss to coat.
Continue cooking over medium heat until the glaze is thickened and the chicken is cooked through.

Yum

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Grilled Chicken with Cherry Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Garlic Basil Pasta

One of my absolute favorite things to do is go down to the farmer's market, traversing all the stands of fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies, crafts, and jams and jellies, hunt down amazing ingredients, take them home, and create a wonderful fresh, tasty dinner.

Last week I found a company that makes fresh pasta. They had all kinds - chocolate fettaccini, sun dried tomato linguini, lemon poppy seed bowties, along with a rainbow assortment of other shapes and flavors. I settled on a lovely green garlic basil. Although I wish I had gotten some chocolate pasta as well. 

Added to that I purchased cherry tomatoes in a all shapes and colors (my favorite!), fresh locally grown organic chicken breasts, and creamy mozzarella cheese. 

Once home, I threw the chicken on the grill, drizzled the freshly made pasta with some high quality EVOO, and threw it all together with some parmesan cheese. 

Amazing.
Yum

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Walnut Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken




After the Daring Cook's Challenge where we used nuts to make a savory meal, I decided I definitely wanted to explore this concept some more. I found this recipe at Cooking Light, which is fantastic because not only is this meal delicious but healthy! I also made a yummy homemade Honey Mustard dipping sauce (my husbands favorite!) This turned out great. It had a nice crunchy coating and was very moist and flavorful! Neither my husband or I could decide if we liked it better with or without the sauce, it was great both ways. Which way do you like best?


Walnut Rosemary Oven Fried Chicken

  • 1/4  cup  low-fat buttermilk
  • 2  tablespoons  Dijon mustard
  • 4  (6-ounce) chicken cutlets
  • 1/3  cup  panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
  • 1/3  cup  finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 2  tablespoons  grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 3/4  teaspoon  minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/4  teaspoon  kosher salt
  • 1/4  teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • Rosemary leaves (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 425°.
2. Combine buttermilk and mustard in a shallow dish, stirring with a whisk. Add chicken to buttermilk mixture, turning to coat.
3. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko to pan; cook 3 minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. Combine panko, nuts, and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a shallow dish. Remove chicken from buttermilk mixture; discard buttermilk mixture. Dredge chicken in panko mixture.
4. Arrange a wire rack on a large baking sheet; coat rack with cooking spray. Arrange chicken on rack; coat chicken with cooking spray. Bake at 425° for 13 minutes or until chicken is done. Garnish with rosemary leaves, if desired.

Honey Mustard
5 Tablespoons Honey
3 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
2 Tablespoons Rice Wine Vinegar

Mix, and enjoy!
Yum