Monday, June 30, 2014

List of Loving

In case you hadn't noticed, the Internet is a wonderful platform for vicarious living. I'm always finding a million things I wish I could be doing....and, of course, a million recipes I'd like to be trying out. Yes, I yearn to taste each and every one of them, but, alas, lurking takes less time. And is calorie free!

Here are a few sweets and treats from around the web that are currently making my mouth water:

First of all, Helloooooooo ice cream: Cherry Crisp Ice Cream at Annie's Eats and Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream at Tutti Dolci

And then there's:
Rhubarb and White Chocolate Blondies at Hummingbird High
Rhubarb Curd at Hummingbird High
Rhubarb Panna Cotta Tart at Hummingbird High
Blueberry Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting at Cooking Classy
Blueberry Swirl Cheesecake at sally's baking addiction

And in case chocolate is at risk of being neglected:
Salty and Malty Brown Butter Treats at Joy the Baker
Black Forest Cookie Bars at Tutti Dolci

I just made myself hungry. Happy loving!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

I love barbecue sauce. When I shifted my diet to include more plant-based and fewer animal-based entrees, I realized that I wasn’t all that attached to chicken breasts. I was attached to the barbecue sauce I would put on them. I wanted to make my own special recipe, or, more likely, recipes in the plural, since just one probably wouldn’t do. I collected barbecue sauce recipes of all kinds. I’m still collecting them, no matter how similar they probably are to those I already have.

I didn’t imagine I would begin my experimental quest with a barbecue sauce containing rhubarb.

Well, rhubarb it is, then. I’ve got rhubarb plants growing up against the shed in the back yard and they’ve been particularly generous with their thick, juicy, super-sour stems this year. I’ve given some away, made Strawberry Rhubarb Sauce, and Strawberry Rhubarb Freezer Jam, and since I’m also using the grill between rain storms, it was barbecue sauce that fell to me next. And if it is a bit unusual for a barbecue sauce, it’s a mighty delicious one!

This sauce is very simple to put together and cooks quickly. In flavor and texture, it may remind you more of a sweet and tart chutney than something zesty and smoky to slather on a rack of ribs. But it’s really good in that sweet-and-tart-ness. I added a bit of zing to the original recipe with crushed red pepper flakes and something a bit deeper and darker with a splash of molasses.

I served my Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce with grilled chicken breasts (despite the lack of attachment to them to which I attested above), only spooning some on at the end of cooking. The sauce is chunky and I didn’t think it would stick well to a piece of protein that I was flipping on the grill. I suppose I’ve been treating it as more of a condiment than a cooking sauce, especially when I dolloped it on a cold chicken sandwich. It was mighty delicious there, too.

Slightly sweet and fruity, tart and tangy and a tiny bit spicy: Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce was an admittedly unusual place to begin my personal barbecue sauce journey, but I’ll never regret it. It’s too delicious for that!

Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce
Adapted from EatingWell magazine, May/June 2014

2 tablespoons canola oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
¼ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 cups rhubarb, sliced
¼ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses

1. In a medium-size saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes, and cook about 30 seconds more.

2. Add the rhubarb, ketchup, brown sugar, cider vinegar and molasses. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally to keep the sugars from burning. Reduce the heat and boil gently until the rhubarb is soft enough to break apart when stirred, about 15-20 minutes. Serve as you would any barbecue sauce (although it will be chunkier.)

Makes about 1 ½ cups. Refrigerate leftovers for up to two weeks.

Another recipe like this one: Chinese Style Barbecue Sauce and Marinade

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

I’ve wanted to post more often this month. Really I have. But there was a flopped quiche and another quiche-like tart that wasn’t quite right and a berry galette that was better than I thought it would be, so I probably should have taken some photos and some blurry pictures of the banana-nut yeast bread I baked. In the end I had nothing to show for this month’s cooking.

Then I felt really silly as I remembered that I had some absolutely delicious ice cream in the freezer that I hadn’t told you about yet. Now, this, even more than the obstacles to blogging I mentioned above, is a true testament to how much I’ve been off my game when it comes to getting butt in chair and fingers to keyboard. I can’t believe I’ve been so busy or so tired or so lazy that I haven’t been cheering and ranting and hooray-ing about this ice cream ad nauseum!

Well, no more delay. Here it is! Delicious, delicious Peanut Butter Ice Cream! Can you believe it? Peanut butter in ice cream. As if peanut butter wasn’t wonderful enough. As if chilled and churned butterfat needed additional richness. But this isn’t about “need” or “enough.” This is about a velvety rich, sweet, and creamy dessert. This is about going beyond what is necessary.

Speaking of going beyond, I also added chopped peanut butter cups to this ice cream. You could add something different, like chocolate chunks, peanuts, honey roasted peanuts, whatever. Or you could add nothing at all. But really. What would you be trying to do? Save calories? This might not be the place to fool yourself at that level. This is the place to indulge in a smooth summer treat with a fabulous flavor combination. Hooray!

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

2 large eggs
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
¾ cup chopped peanut butter cups (optional, or substitute with a mix-in of your choice)

1. In a medium-size bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Continue beating until the mixture is pale and no longer grainy. Whisk in the milk.

2. Pour the mixture into a medium-size saucepan. Heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring often until the mixture reaches 160 F (about 72 C). (Use an instant-read or candy thermometer.)

3. Transfer the mixture to a clean bowl. Whisk in the peanut butter until completely smooth. Stir in the heavy cream. Cover and chill at least 2 hours, or until very cold.

4. Pour the chilled mixture into the freezing canister of an ice cream maker. Freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions. When the ice cream is nearly finished, add to peanut butter cups and continue churning until well distributed. Transfer to a freezer safe container and freeze until firm. (You could eat it right out of the ice cream maker, but it will be quite soft. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

Makes a generous quart (about 1 liter).

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

I’ve been mulling this recipe idea around for years. Actually, I only just realized that a time span of actual years was involved when I found some long-lost recipe notes, and I had written down this idea there. And, you know, I can’t remember what made me actually get around to trying it last month. That’s been happening a lot around there.

Anyway, the filling for these pasta shells is based on one of my favorite party dips, this savory and flavorful Spinach and Artichoke Dip. The dip on its own is a bit too rich to be eaten as a meal in itself (not that I haven’t done something similar), so I took the basic flavors and sort of diluted them a bit with a classic pasta filling, ricotta cheese.

The result was pleasantly garlicky and cheesy, but not as intense as the dip, which is appropriate for a baked pasta main dish, I think. I was pleasantly surprised, not because I didn’t know that the spinach and artichokes and Parmesan and mozzarella and ricotta would be great together, or that they would make a good pasta filling, but because it came out so well the first time I threw it together.

Okay, so that’s sort of the disclaimer. This recipe isn’t exactly well-tested. While I thought it was tasty and balanced, it probably needed a pinch of salt here and there (I included that in the recipe below.) If I have a chance to give it another fling, I might try adding more artichoke hearts. I can also think of a few variations that drift away from the original recipe inspiration. As it is now, however, this is a solid dish. It could probably be doubled to feed a crowd, and the leftovers are great if you’re feeding just a few, as I usually do.

And an added bonus for this writer: I’ve overcome my fear of stuffing noodle shells. It’s not so bad. I hardly even made a mess!

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Shells
You could chop and cook fresh spinach or mess with fresh artichokes, but frozen spinach and canned or frozen artichokes are just fine.

12-14 large pasta shells

for the filling:
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
½ cup mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon pepper
pinch salt, if desired
5 ounces frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
½ of a 14-16 ounce can artichoke hearts (about 4 hearts), drained and chopped

for the sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups milk
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
pinch salt, if desired

½ cup mozzarella cheese

1. Cook the pasta in boiling salted water in batches until cooked but still firm. Carefully remove from the water to a plate and set aside while preparing the filling.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the ricotta, egg, cream cheese, ½ cup mozzarella cheese, ¼ cup Parmesan, 2 cloves garlic, pepper and a pinch of salt, if desired. Process until smooth. Add the spinach and pulse until well-combined. Add the chopped artichokes and pulse just until distributed. Set aside.

3. To make the sauce, melt the butter over medium heat in a medium-size saucepan. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant. Whisk in the flour until the mixture is very smooth. Cook about 1 minute. Whisk in the milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently until the mixture comes to a boil (this could take 15 minutes or so, but watch carefully). Cook about 1 minute more or until the mixture has thickened.

3. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with cooking spray or grease it as desired. Spread about 1/3 of the cooked sauce over the bottom of the dish. Spoon the ricotta mixture evenly into the cooked shells. Arrange them on the sauce in the casserole dish.

4. Pour or spoon the remaining sauce over the stuffed shells. Cover with the remaining ½ cup mozzarella. Cover the dish and bake 30 minutes at 350 F. Uncover and bake 15 minutes more or until bubbly and lightly browned in a few places.

Makes about 4 servings.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Photo Journal: Baking Day

Sunday was baking day. Yes, that day that was impossibly hot and humid for the end of May in Minnesota. Go ahead and get out of the kitchen if you can't stand the heat. I managed to take one for the team and produce baked goods for several days. From left to right, I have Rhubarb Yogurt Cake (I had hoped to say more about this archive recipe, but there's just one piece left and I've yet to take a decent photo.), Wheat Sandwich Bread, Banana Nut Yeast Bread (more on that and a recipe soon!) and a light whole wheat version of the no-knead bread I mentioned years ago in this post. I also made a baked dish of Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Shells, inspired by this dip. I hope to post that recipe soon, too.

Sure, it was hot, hot, hot in my kitchen on that Sunday, but I've hardly lifted a finger the rest of this week as I'm living on leftovers (really they're plan-overs) and sandwiches.

One Year Ago: Blueberry Rhubarb Sauce