Archive for Comfort food

Cherry Shortcake (plus Cheddar and Green Onion Biscuits)

Sometimes in life, you should splurge a little bit. I decided one of those times is while I’m here in London, I should definitely buy the full fat creme fraiche. Why? Because it’s delicious, creamy, and I can’t get it easily back home. Here I can even get a store brand, and it’s fantastic.

But then I had to come up with something to eat it with.

Sure, there’s the usual “with fruit” option, and that’s wonderful and I have used part of my tub for that. But I wanted something that would be a little different. And I also felt like baking. However, I’m cooking for just one person here, so it doesn’t make much sense for me to make a whole pie.

I decided to make some biscuits. Originally, I was heading this direction because a) of this recipe and b) I knew I could freeze some of them and bake them next week when I’m ready for more biscuits. So I decided to divide the biscuit recipe in two and make half savory and half slightly sweet. Savory for eggs in the morning (ok, I’ll admit, I topped the eggs with creme fraiche too!), and the sweeter ones for shortcakes. I should say I’m usually more of a flaky biscuit gal, but these were pretty tasty. I decided since I was already baking in a kitchen other than my own, I didn’t need bust out a rolling pin.

And the cherries my produce man had looked delicious, so I bought “two handfuls” instead of one. Also, someone important to me doesn’t care for berries, so I considered this a test run of a recipe for us to eat this summer.

So first the the cherries, and then the recipe(s) for the biscuits. Please note the cherry recipe makes a terribly small amount since it’s just for me, but it’s easily doubled or tripled.

Mmm, cherry shortcake.

Cherries for Shortcakes

Servings: 2

Ingredients:

  • about 1 c. whole, fresh cherries (or maybe 1 1/2 so you can eat some of them as you go)
  • 1/2-1 tsp sugar (depending on how sweet your cherries are)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp water–the cherries don’t release that much juice, so I added a touch of water to get everything evenly coated and to have some juice to pour on the biscuits.
  1. Wash and de-stem the cherries. Cut them in half and remove the pits. Put them in a small bowl and combine with the other ingredients, adjusting the amount of sugar based on the sweetness of the cherries. (I used just a touch over 1/2 tsp.)
  2. Refrigerate for 30 min to a day before using.
  3. To make the shortcakes, split open a biscuit such as the sweet ones below or your own favorite recipe, top with half the cherry mixture and a generous dollop of creme fraiche or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Cheddar & Green Onion and Sweet Drop Biscuits

Servings: 6 savory and 6 sweet

Prep/Baking Time: 15-20 min prep, 15-18 min baking

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • scant 1 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp (1 tbsp) sugar, divided
  • 3 oz/6 tbsp cold, unsalted butter
  • 3 oz sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 tbsp lime juice (or vinegar)*
  • enough milk to make 1 c when added to the lime juice (or use buttermilk and omit the lime juice)
  1. Stir together the lime juice and milk. You can grate the cheese if you want, but I diced mine into small pieces. I think it was easier to mix that way. Whichever, prep your cheese and thinly slice the green onion, separating the rings of the white part. Cut the butter into 6-8 pieces.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and 1 1/2 tsp sugar. Add the butter pieces, and cut in with your fingers until you have small pieces throughout (slightly smaller than peas).
  3. Separate half of the flour mixture into another bowl. This will be just over 1 1/2 c of flour mixture. We’ll call this new bowl “bowl B.”
  4. To bowl A (the original one), add 1 tsp of sugar and mix thoroughly. Add half the soured milk. Blend quickly (dough should still be rough, not smooth). Dollop onto a greased baking sheet, about 1/3 c per biscuit. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 tsp of sugar.**
  5. To bowl B, add the cheese and onions and mix thoroughly. Add the other half of the soured milk and blend quickly, noting the same as above for mixing. Divide dough onto a greased sheet in the same manner.
  6. Bake for 15-18 minutes until golden brown and smelling delicious.

*I happened to have purchased a lime earlier in the day, which was fortunate ’cause I couldn’t find an vinegar in the flat where I’m staying. The lime juice worked just as well as vinegar, and I didn’t notice any lime flavor (though I think that might have been tasty).

**You can also dollop the dough onto a cookie sheet and then freeze the sheet until the biscuits are set. Then move them to an airtight container and bake them when you want to, adding a couple minutes to the time. I baked three sweet and three savory and froze the other three of each. I even baked on the same pan and didn’t notice any flavor transfer.

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Banana Nut Bread

I bought a few bananas a while back, and before I knew it, they were much too “ripe” for me too eat. I prefer my bananas with a hint of green or possibly a lone brown freckle. But once there are a handful, I can’t quite bring myself to eat them as is. I often take these over-ripe bananas, slice them and freeze them for use in milkshakes. However, my freezer already has enough banana slices in it, and with the cool evenings we’ve had recently, I thought it was time for some banana bread.

Super ripe bananas are key for this recipe to provide the necessary sweetness. I made mine in three small loaf pans (about six inches by three inches). This made nice rounded loaves with golden tops, but the recipe could easily be spread into four loaf pans with less in them or one larger loaf. Keep the oven temperature the same, but adjust the baking time (more for a larger loaf, less for smaller ones). This recipe is a modification of the Better Homes and Gardens one.

pretty loaves

pretty loaves

Cooking time: 15 minutes prep, 35-45 minutes baking

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups very ripe bananas (about 3 large)
  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 c vegetable oil
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  1. Grease and flour/spray with Baker’s Joy the inside of your loaf pan(s). Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Combine the first six ingredients (flour through salt) in a large bowl.
  3. In a separate medium bowl, mash the bananas. Add the eggs, sugar and oil and mix thoroughly.
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry all at once. Mix well, but there will be some lumps. Add the nuts and mix a few more strokes.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan(s). If using several small loaf pans, there should be at least an inch of space at the top of the pan.
  6. Bake in the oven about 20 minutes, then rotate the pan(s). Continue baking until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, 15 to 25 minutes more, depending on the size of the loaves.
  7. Cool on a wire rack at least ten minutes. Quick breads freeze well–just be sure the loaves are completely cool before doing so. I froze one of my loaves, wrapping it first in plastic wrap, then foil.

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Southern Feast, part 1

Pimento Cheese

Pimento Cheese

A little over a week ago, I had a few friends over for a southern feast. While most of the food here is fine Texas fare, I must admit the fried green tomatoes are something I picked up from my time with my parents in Memphis.

It was impossible to do all fine southern treats in one go, so there will have to be some other feasts of southern cuisine later in the summer (besides, okra isn’t in season here yet). I’m also not going to put all the recipes here because, well mostly because I’m lazy. too lazy to type them and was too lazy to measure things at the time. I also must admit with shame that I did not make good cream gravy to accompany everything, not because I’m lazy, but because I’m terrible at timing cooking, and we were all too hungry to wait for gravy. So I provide instead our menu with links to a few recipes for some of these items, followed by one recipe.

Menu:

  • Pimento Cheese with celery sticks and crackers
  • Chicken Fried Steak
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Fried Green Tomatoes with ranch dressing
  • Homemade Biscuits with butter and honey
  • Strawberry Shortcakes
  • Minty Spiked Lemonade

Pimento Cheese

For those not familiar with pimento cheese, it’s more of a dip than a cheese. You can serve it with celery, crackers, or whatever you like. It’s served cool to room temp., not hot. Any good homemade version should not be anything like that disgusting schmear found on “pimento cheese sandwiches” cut into quarters.

Serves: about 6 as an appetizer

Ingredients:

  • 8-10 oz. sharp cheddar cheese (real Longhorn cheddar w/ the red wax is best if available, but it’s not in Iowa and it was still fine)
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 4 oz. jar diced pimentos, drained
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine-do not use fat free)
  • 1/4 cup sour cream (same as above)
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • a few pecan halves (optional)
  1. Grate the cheddar cheese while it is still cold from the fridge (don’t use prepackaged shreds. They don’t have as much moisture). Then set the cheese aside to warm to room temperature. It’s easier to mix if it’s warmer, but easier to grate cooler.
  2. Meanwhile, dice the garlic clove and drain the pimentos (and dice them if you couldn’t find a jar of diced).
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the garlic, pimentos, mayo, sour cream, mustard and spices. Then mix in the cheese. Blend well.
  4. Pack into a smaller bowl, preferably one you will use for presentation. Cover tightly and chill at least two hours, preferably overnight. When ready to serve, garnish with a few pecan halves on top, perhaps in a nice pattern. Serve with dipping items.

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Mushroom-Walnut Noodle Kugel

I was looking for something to do with the leftover mushrooms in my fridge when I came across a recipe for this dish in my copy of Joy of Cooking that I got for Christmas. I’m more familiar with the sweet kugels, but this sounded tasty. However, the recipe below is very loosely based on the one in Joy. It would be improved by some sauteed onions, about 1/3 to 1/2 cup, but I didn’t have any so I used a little onion powder. Please omit the powder and use the onions if you have them–just toss them in the skillet for a few minutes before adding the mushrooms. It will be much tastier. Also, this dish can easily become vegan by using egg substitute, soymilk, and vegan pasta.

Servings: about 2 main course if you have a salad or something with it

Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes (most of that is baking time)

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 oz egg noodles
  • 4 oz white mushrooms
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/3 cup chopped celery
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1/3 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/8 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • freshly ground pepper
  • dash of salt
  1. Put water on to boil for the pasta. Chop the celery into 1/3 inch pieces, mince the garlic and slice the mushrooms in 1/4 inch thick slices. Preheat the over to 350.
  2. Add the pasta to the boiling water. It should take about 10 minutes to cook. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a small non-stick skillet. Add the mushrooms and celery. After about five minutes, add the garlic. Continue to saute until the mushrooms are light brown and aromatic.
  3. While the mushroom mixture is sizzling, combine the eggs, milk and spices in a medium mixing bowl. Chop the walnuts if necessary. Drain the noodles when they’re al dente. Add them to the egg mixture. Add the mushroom mixture to the eggs and noodles, followed by the walnuts. Toss lightly with a fork until everything is evenly combined.
  4. Coat a 1 quart baking dish with non-stick spray. Transfer the noodle mixture to the dish, lightly packing it with a fork. Bake for 35-40 minutes until golden brown on top. (After 35 minutes, I moved mine to the top rack to finish up the browning for about five minutes. I didn’t want to overcook the inside.) Let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Chicken Tetrasquini

Spaghetti squash. Love it. Easy to make: split open lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, place face down in a baking dish, prick with fork, bake until tender. Then top it like you would spaghetti. I made spaghetti squash earlier this week.

Since then, I’ve been eating a lot of tomato based things, and the thought of having marinara sauce for dinner just about made me vomit. My fridge was full of odds and ends of things, some with said tomato products, no ready-made meals (other than said tomato products) but too full to eat out. What to do? Make a new recipe!

I decided that if you can really use the stringy strands of spaghetti squash just like the pasta, why not make a baked dish out of it? (Thus also warming up my house slightly.) Why not something like chicken tetrazzini? Except, apparently, tetrazzini is supposed to have mushrooms in it, and I didn’t have any mushrooms in the house. So I used the random vegetables I did have: carrots that weren’t very sweet (bad for snacking, fine for cooking), leftover celery from another dish, my last leek and bell pepper from the farmer’s market.

I think it came out great! The celery has a surprisingly nutty aroma when sauted. Maybe that’s common knowledge, but I’m not the biggest celery fan, so I usually leave it out of recipes: mistake! I couldn’t believe the flavor! Since I was mostly using leftover items (had a chicken breast in the freezer, squash already made), this didn’t take too long to throw together. And, it makes a few servings, so I’ll have some food to eat during the coming week of torture: a presentation, an exam to give and grade, a paper to write, plus readings as usual.

tetrasquini

Servings: 4-5

Cooking time: One hour, including baking time

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium leek (about 1/2 cup when chopped) or equivalent amount of green onion
  • 1 medium garlic clove
  • 1 celery stalk (1/3 cup or so)
  • enough carrots for 1/3 to 1/2 cup chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper
  • 1 cooked chicken breast or 1 cup fake chicken strips (not the breaded kind)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 to 1 1/2 tbsp all purpose flour
  • dash red pepper flakes
  • black pepper
  • dash nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1/4 tsp dried parsley
  • just over 1/2 cup lowfat milk
  • enough vegetable broth to equal 1 1/4 cup liquid with the milk (just over 1/2 cup?)
  • about 3 cups cooked spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup cheese–I used a little Ramano and a little Cheddar
  1. Slice the root end off the leek, and then split it open lengthwise. Make sure to rinse all the dirt out. Thinly slice the white and light green parts (or all of a green onion). Mince the garlic clove. Chop the celery, carrots and bell pepper into equal size pieces, roughly 1/2 inch square. Cut up the chicken into 3/4 inch chunks.
  2. Heat the butter in a large non-stick skillet over medium-low heat until foaming subsides. Add the leek and garlic. Saute for a minute or so. Add the celery and carrots. Saute 2-3 minutes or until almost tender. Add the bell pepper and the red pepper flakes. Saute about 2 more minutes. Add the other herbs and chicken. Saute about a minute or two (the celery should smell nutty by now). Add the flour and coat everything well. Add the milk-broth mixture all at once. Stir occasionally until the sauce is thickened.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350. Add the spaghetti squash to the pan, and stir together until everything is well-distributed. Add a tablespoon or so of the cheese.
  4. Spray a 2 quart baking dish with non-stick spray. Pack the skillet mixture into the baking dish. Top with remaining shredded cheese (it may not look like much cheese, but it oozes in the oven).
  5. Bake uncovered for 16-18 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling all around the edges of the dish. Let stand a few minutes before slicing and serving. Mmmm…

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Chick Pea Pot Pie

It’s probably too warm to make this in most parts of the country now, but if a cool evening springs up, I recommend this easy to prepare, tasty dish.

I adapted this recipe from my friend Andrea’s recipe for chicken pot pie. Her original recipe calls for Veg-All, which I just can’t bring myself to use (sorry, Andrea). But if you want to, you can substitute the Veg-All for the frozen veggies and potato.

I had a little trouble getting my crust to brown quickly enough this last time. Next time I make it, I’ll try just putting foil on the edges of the crust.

There are two ways to make this ahead of time and then bake it when you’re ready. If you know you’ll be baking it later the same day, you can assemble the whole pie. If you’re making it the night before, just mix up the filling and put it in the crust before you decide to bake it.

pot pie

Cooking time: 20 minutes prep, 1 hour-1 hour 15 minutes baking

Servings: 5-6

Ingredients:

  • 2 15 oz cans chick peas/garbanzo beans
  • 2 10 3/4 oz cans cream of celery soup (I prefer the Healthy Request kind)
  • 1 16 oz package frozen mixed vegetables (corn, green beans, carrots, etc.)
  • 1 small baking potato (should make about 1/2 cup chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed sage
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 2+ dashes cayenne pepper
  • lots of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 package (2 sheets) refrigerated pie crust (Andrea says not to use the generic kind)
  1. Peel the potato and chop it into half inch pieces. Drain and rinse the chick peas. (If you are assembling the whole pie at once, take the pie crust out of the fridge to warm up a bit.)
  2. In a medium to large mixing bowl, stir together the potato pieces, chick peas, vegetables, soup and spices. (If you’re assembling the pie later, cover this mix tightly and refrigerate.)
  3. In a glass or ceramic pie plate, carefully unroll one of the sheets of pie crust. Gently push it into the edges of your plate, trying to eliminate any air bubbles. Pour the vegetable mix in and spread it evenly in the dish. Carefully unroll the other pie crust over the top of the pie. You may need to cut away some extra crust. Tightly seal the two crusts together, using the tines of a fork to create a nice edge if so desired. Cut a few holes in the top to vent the pie. (If baking later, cover tightly and refrigerate.)
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 350. Tent foil over the top of the pie and bake for 30 minutes. Then remove the foil and continue baking 25-45 minutes more, or until the crust is light golden brown. Let stand about 10 minutes before serving.

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Tantalizing Tomato Soup

tomato soup

Growing up, my dad and I always ate grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup for lunch, especially when Mom was out. I still love regular tomato soup (and grilled cheese), but I had the urge to dress this up a bit, and I must say, it was quite a success. The balsamic vinegar adds a lovely sweetness, and the chunks of fresh tomatoes make the soup a bit heartier. It’s a great way to warm up as the weather gets chillier.

Cooking time: 20 minutes or less

Servings: 2+ (If you’re eating it with grilled cheese sandwiches, three servings at least, I think)

Ingredients:

  • 1 can reduced-sodium condensed tomato soup
  • low-fat milk to fill the can
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil
  • 1/8 tsp onion powder
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder
  • cayenne pepper, to taste
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  1. Chop the tomato into 1/3 to 1/2 inch pieces.
  2. Pour the can of soup into a small pot and turn the heat on medium-low. Use a little bit of water to get out the bits stuck to the can. Fill the can with milk and add it to the pot. Stir until the soup is dissolved into the milk.
  3. Add the tomatoes, basil, onion and garlic powders and pepper. Stir well. Pour in the vinegar while stirring the soup.
  4. Stir occasionally until heated through. Serve piping hot, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich.

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