Thursday, April 30, 2009

Beer Can Chicken and glazed carrots

The true signs of spring: turning off the stove, start up the smoker and trade in the 7 & Ginger for a beer.
The first time I heard the term 'Beer Can Chicken' I admittedly turned up my foodie nose. Once we tried it - watch out! This is a great way to ensure a moist bird from the inside out. A bonus- no 'tying' and very little prep. For last night's dinner, I used a prepared rub and had to sacrifice a pepsi can to fill with beer and onions. I paired this with some glazed carrots for a healthy dinner.

Beer Can Chicken
1 Roasting Chicken
Prepared Spice Rub of choice
Olive Oil
Can of beer (drink half of it)
1/2 onion chopped

After rinsing and drying the chicken, rub with olive oil then prepared spice rub. Let sit for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, drink half of the beer and chop up the onion. Cut the top of the can off with a can opener. Add the onion and 1-2 TBSP of rub to the can. There should be room in the can to minimize spill over while cooking.

Using the can as a 'stand' set the chicken upright. Set the chicken in the smoker at 275 (or off direct heat on the grill at the lowest setting.) Chicken needs to read at least 160 internally. This took a little under 2 hours on the smoker.

Tasty Glazed Carrots
about 2 cups of baby carrots
1/4 stick of butter
6 oz. chicken stock - HOT
1 TBSP sugar

Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-low heat. Add the carrots, cover, and allow to sweat (about 3 minutes). Carrots will begin to soften. Add hot chicken stock (great use for your frozen homemade stock!) and sugar. Cover and cook over low heat for 6-8 minutes until soft. Remove the cover and turn up the heat. Cook until stock has reduced to a glaze. Serve warm.

Fav Things: Morning Coffee

This sounds a bit like a shameless plug - but please know that the only benefit I am getting from this brand of coffee is my daily dose of Vitamin C (caffeine) - that I pay for. I like to use my dollars deliberately - this is a great way to make a difference without making a dent.

A good cup of coffee for a good cause - what could be better? I found had heard about this non-profit coffee company located here in Minneapolis and just saw it on the shelf at my Super Target last weekend. I picked up the French Roast beans - and they are really good. Plus - it's cheaper than picking up Starbucks or other 'name-brand' coffee.

Don't live in Minneapolis? Good news - you can order this stuff.
Lifted from the website:
Give a boost
When you buy CityKid Java, you’re putting your money where your values are. Every dollar we earn goes to proven programs that support disadvantaged children in the Twin Cities and Central America. In Minneapolis, CityKid Java fuels mentoring and educational programs, athletic teams, camps and youth leadership experiences. Each year more than 1,500 inner-city kids get connected to the role models, mentors and life skills they need to succeed – thanks to CityKid Java drinkers like you.
Get a Boost
With CityKid Java, you don’t have to compromise your coffee standards to satisfy your conscience. CityKid Java uses only premium beans – 100% Arabica – from the finest high-mountain regions in the world. We pay more than fair trade prices for all of our green beans. Learn more about our
True Trade principles. Whenever possible, we purchase beans that are grown in the shade and processed without chemicals. Our beans are hand-crafted in small batches and slow-roasted locally. They are impeccably fresh-roasted and delivered within days of your order. All of our coffees are Kosher certified. And the result? A virtuous brew that has won 6 out of 6 taste tests against the big-name coffee-chain competitors.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Chicago Dogs and Baseball

Maybe it's the proximity to the windy city - or maybe I just found a love of hot dogs that I never had as a kid. Tonight, dinner was brought to you by H. and we're about to turn on the game. We enjoy cooking hot dogs for dinner - albeit a complicated Chicago Style dog. This is a great weeknight meal that provides at least a serving of veggies (I prefer to add a real salad to my plate - H just likes to have 2.) Feel free to read wiki to become an expert.
Chicago Hot Dog a la H.
- whole wheat bun - lightly toasted on the grill
- Hot Dogs - grilled
*my favorite is all-beef from Lunds b/c they are nice and snappy - tonight was Nathan's. They are longer than the bun (bonus) but no snap.

yellow mustard
neon green pickle relish
slices or wedges of tomato
pickle spear
sport peppers
white onions, diced (we used red b/c that's what we had)
celery salt
Best served with a side of beer.

Tasty! Now off to watch the baseball game. Go Twins!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Oatmeal Cherry Cookies - a new twist on a classic

Spring cleaning. I thought about it. I somehow rationalized using ingredients in the cabinet for some cookies as a reasonable substitute. Nevermind the fact that in my grocery trip today - many more items were added to the cabinet than what I was able to use. That doesn't count.
Any way you dice it - these cookies are tasty. And - they are very different from any other cookie that i've had. Please note: cardamom is not a taste for everyone. I thought it was - until H. likened the taste to soap coating his mouth. Oh, well. That means more cookies for the work crowd!
Oatmeal Cherry Cookies
1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1.5 TBSP Brandy (or 1.5 tsp vanilla)
2 cups AP flour
1 tsp baking pwd
1 tsp cardamom (or cinnamon)
1/2 tsp salt (skip if you used salted butter)
2 cups oatmeal
1 cup cherries
1 cup chocolate chunks

* Heat oven to 350
* Cream sugar
and butter
* add eggs, one at a time and Brandy
* In seperate bowl, stir together flour, bkg pwd, cardamom and salt
* Add flour to butter mixture and mix until well c
* Fold in oats, cherries and chocolate
* Using a small scoop, scoop dough unto parchment lined c
ookie sheets
* Chill prepared cookie sheets until very firm (freeze for 5 minutes or fridge for 10).
* Bake chilled dough balls for 10-12 minutes. Rotate sheet half-way through baking. Pull out of
oven when cookies begin to brown. Slide parchment off of cookie sheets to help stop the baking.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Breakfast of Champions!

Today is the day - the half marathon race. It's the first race of the summer for me - so I'm a little curious about how I will feel, what my pace will be, and if it just MIGHT stop raining???

Essential: coffee, fiber cereal (i even mixed in some of H's super fiber icky cereal!), and water. 

Whatever. My long runs have been fun and I am going to the race with some friends. So I have the promise of a running buddy and I own a raincoat - so it can't be that bad!

Hope you are having a good weekend. 

Update: the run went great! Thanks to my friend/running coach/drill sergeant Matt - we stayed true to the goal of 10 minute miles. The rain held off - against forecasts - and the temps stayed at a perfect 50 degrees. A two hour nap later - and H. is back home - time to have some fun!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Home Alone = Mac & Cheese and Scones

I'm home alone! H. is on an alumni/business trip until Saturday. That means - Kraft macaroni and cheese. That means BRAVO. That means wine. That means baking from the cookbook that I have on loan from a very thoughtful person at work.

First of all - mac and cheese. I can't remember the last time when I made this from the box. Not organic - and not
 homemade (GASP). It was my 9 minute dinner so I could get to baking, a bit of blogging, and knitting while watching TV. 

Before getting the kitchen scale out - I actually started the dishwasher. Something about me - I'm a secret PIGPEN. As soon as H. is out - dishes and clothes stay where they are dropped. So, the fact that I cleaned on the first of 2 solo evenings is a sign of change - or that I was thinking about writing about my night and didn't want it to be a messy memory.

This is a perfect solo night for me. Now - i'm off to finish off some wine and other fun things that I haven't decided yet. What would you do if you didn't have to worry about all the other people in your life for one night?

For my baking adventure, I chose a recipe for Lemon Blueberry Scones for this fine evening based on several factors. First - it will be great for bringing into work tomorrow. Second - it's easy: fast and I already have lemons and blueberries. Third - it's super fast and will leave time to hang out!

Lemon Blueberry Scones
from Baking Illustrated
10 oz (2 cups) unbleached AP flour
2 TBSP baking pwd
3 TBSP bkg sugar
1/2 tsp salt
5 TBSP butter: cold cut into 1/4" cubes
1/2 cup blueberries 
1 tsp lemon zest
1 cup heavy cream

* preheat oven to 425
* using the food processor - mix the dry 
* process in the butter and lemon zest
* Stir in heavy cream just until dough forms
* Stir in blueberries
* Shape into circle or flat log and cut into triangles
* Bake for 8-12 minutes

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fav things: Trader Joe's Pizza Dough

I live above a grocery store. A very nice grocery store - some might say "gourmet". The motto: 'Value is more than just price.' does that tell you something? I love it, don't get me wrong. I know most of the employees and they know me by name. Sometimes, they even give me good deals at the meat or cheese counters.

It is not a Trader Joe's. TJ's is a bit of a drive from my 'hood. So, when we were visiting and introduced to brand new baby Abby (6 weeks old!) we had to stop at the TJ's just a few blocks away.

Our focus: Easy yet interesting Weeknight Meals

Our Favorite: Pizza Dough

This dough is near the cheese and fresh pasta. It's in a bag - and is wet. Just warm it up at room temp for about 20 minutes and you can stretch it, top it, and bake it. It was faster and MUCH TASTIER than a frozen pizza. Not as tasty as H's homemade dough - but perfect for a weeknight.

H was in charge of making dinner - and made the following white pizza.

H's White Pizza
* Preheat Oven to 500
* Take dough out of fridge (20 minutes)
* Sauted Spinach
- we had a big bag that we needed to work through. Threw some olive oil and garlic in a big dutch oven and then threw in the spinach. It was done before the dough was done 'warming up'.
* Sprinkle counter with white corn meal (nice crunch on the crust and prevents sticking)
* Stretch dough into desired shape/size
* Top Dough:
- Olive Oil
- Spinach
- Artichokes (also from TJ's!)
- Mozzerella
- Red Pepper flakes
- Grated Parmesan
* Bake until done. This will vary depending on the thickness of your dough. Our pizza took about 8 minutes.

Any other favorite TJ items or fast weeknight ideas? Please share!

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Food + Friends = Living the good life

I can't think of many things that are more enjoyable in life than good food and good friends. Throw in a few drinks, some guitar hero, and sitting outside for the first time of the season - and you have one damn good weekend.

Saturday - Dinner party for 8. Scate bakes up a big batch of Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti in the afternoon and set aside to "air dry." Then, I put on the uber tasty sweet Tomato with Onion and Butter sauce to slowly simmer and whip up a quick batch of pasta dough. H. prepared two chickens for the rotisserie and a fun celery/apple/walnut salad. The dinner was billed as a 'wine and scotch tasting' night - so the number of bottles on the table is real - and what we wanted for the evening. I don't know enough about wine to tell you much - we had some great bottles and a lot of tasting. I'm glad I didn't have far to go that night!

Appetizer/First Course: olives and spiced nuts
Pasta Course: homemade linguini with basic tomato sauce
Meat Course: Rotisserie chicken (rubbed with rosemary butter) and slow-cooked glazed carrots
Salad Course: Apple/celery/candied walnut/soft italian cheese salad
Dessert: Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti with assorted ice creams (coffee and vanilla hagen daz)

Pasta Recipe
3.5 cups flour
5 eggs
*the trick is to hand knead for 10 full minutes, let it rest for at least 30 - then use a magical pasta roller to make your noodles. I rolled and cut the noodles while everyone was watching. It took a little longer than I had anticipated and got our guests to jump in and help with the noodles. This got flour everywhere - but added a little entertainment factor.

Pasta Sauce
3 15oz cans of whole stewed tomatoes
15 TBSP butter
2 onions - cut in half through the root end
* let simmer for 45 minutes - 1 hour until that fat seperates (you will see the fat "float" on top)
* throw away the onions before serving.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
from - click title for recipe
* the skins took some time to remove from the hazelnuts. It also made a pretty big mess! I used the nuts with some skin left on them (I couldn't get them off!) to grind up for the dough.
* I threw in about 2 cups of chocolate chunks and mini chocolate chips that I had on hand. These stayed soft when eating - and was a great way to up the chocolate!
* the ground hazelnuts really added a nice flavor to the cookie.
* This recipe makes a lot of cookies! I should have made 3 logs instead of just 2 to keep them the size I like.
* I baked for 20 minutes on the second round because they were still "fudgy" looking after 10 minutes. These are forgiving - but i should have baked longer on the first round.
This batch of biscotti made enough for dessert on Sunday night too! The multi-purposed dessert allowed time to complete my 12 mile run on Sunday morning, visit a brand-new baby and parents in the afternoon, and go to dinner with friends that evening. These were even tastier when not preceeded by many hours of wine tasting - or maybe my memory is more clear... Either way - it was a great weekend! You know it was good when it's all gone!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

'30s wife calculator

I didn't fudge too much... and still wound up as "very superior" - if I wasn't so modest, i would brag to dear H. about how good he has it! You should check this out. Thanks RetroModGirl! And like Mrs. T - it looks like I'm doing well as an aspiring trophy wife!

This test can be taken by men or women. I wonder if my score would be different if H. took this regarding my mad wifey skills?? What's your score?


As a 1930s wife, I am
Very Superior

Take the test!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Fav Things: Recipe Contests

Recipe contests seem so exciting and fun! I have only entered 2 in my life - but my blogging alter-ego SCATE would be a full-time recipe tester and contest enterer. I love contests and events - from running a 10k to taking standardized tests - it's part competition part an event that has a beginning and end.

Since this blog is written by SCATE - some research was done on upcoming recipe contests that will become the object of dreaming and planning.

So - share with the world. Are you a player? Do you have other favorite contests that you are willing to share? I've updated with Scate's thoughts and participation.

Better Homes and Garden: Monthly Contest, win up to $400

Contessa's Breakfast Recipe Contest: Deadline May 1st, win up to $250

Cooking Light Ultimate Reader Recipe Contest: Scate Entered! Grand Prize is $20k!, deadline May 25th

Canned Sweet Potato Recipe Contest: deadline is June 1st, grand prize $1k. This just sounds fun and silly.

Eating Well Holiday Cookie Recipes: deadline June 1st, chance to get published in the December edition of Eating Well and win $2k shopping spree at I do love holiday cookies and already have some mean contenders...

Creative Casseroles for Country Woman: win up to $500, deadline June 1st. Living in the Midwest - i should enter this one. My neighborhood has a Hot Dish Cook-off coming up...

Pillsbury Bake-Off: Scate Entered! Win $1M - thats million... enter by April 20th or just check out great recipes from past winners.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Best Veggie Burgers - EVER

Maybe i'm spending too much time on my high horse with "best ever" recipes... Well, this is the best veggie burger i've ever eaten - and the only one we (H. did all of the prep and cooking - i served stirring duty and commentary) have ever made at home.  

These are tasty - and low in cholesterol and calories... not bad for a Monday night!

Black Bean and Veggie Burger
DICE very fine:
8 oz portobello mushrooms (1 container of babies)
1/2 red onion 
1 green bell pepper
small chiles (we used 5-7 small red with seeds)
3 garlic cloves

Cook in skillet with a few TBSP canola oil (we used 3-4 TBSP)
add spices: sprinkle of paprika, oregano, salt, pepper

cook until veggies are soft and entire mass has shrunk by 30-50% (7-10 minutes)

Add 1 can Black Beans and cook while smashing beans with the back of a spoon until most beans are smashed and heated through.
In a medium bowl, stir together 2
 egg whites, 1 TBSP grainy mustard, and 1 TBSP worcestershire sauce. Add bean mixture and sprinkle with 8-10 TBSP breadcrumbs. Stir together until the mixture will hold together in a ball without flattening (add more breadcrumbs if necessary.)

Form into 4 patties and fry up until edges are brown and burgers are firm. Place on buns with condiments of choice.

recommended: avocado, tomato slices and mustard

The alterations available with this recipe are endless! H. is coming up with an asian version, eggplant and leeks are involved in another version. Anything I can do to encourage healthy dinners - that are his idea - are great!

Have you experimented with homemade veggie burgers? We are not interested in recreating the hamburger - we prefer to create a tasty veggie meal. Ideas are welcome.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Perfect Pie Crust

We are always seeking the perfect something, aren't we?  I have 3 cookbooks that claim to be 'bibles' - or the authoritative text - of their subject matter. Today, I turn to one for some pie crust advice. But like most untrusting souls - I have to pull in advice from my favorite cookbook too. So - i have adapted 2 recipes to bring you my version of the Perfect Flaky Pie Crust infused with some graham cracker crumbs (made for a lemon meringue pie.)

Pie Crust - for prebaked pie shell
adapted from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Pie and Pastry Bible plue the New Best Recipe 

1 stick cold unsalted butter
184 grams AP flour (1 1/3 c)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp bkg powder
2.5-3.5 TBSP ice water
1.5 tsp cider vinegar
1 TBSP sugar
1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

Divide the butter into 2 parts.
- 5 TBSP: cube and wrap in plastic wrap. Put into the fridge for 30 minutes
- 3 TBSP: cube and wrap in plastic wrap. Put into the freezer for 30 minutes

Place the flour, salt and baking pwd into a gallon ziploc and put into the freezer for 30 minutes.

In a food processor: mix the cold 
flour with metal blade to mix. Add the 5 TBSP cold butter and pulse until it looks like coarse meal (about 10 pulses). Add the frozen butter and pulse until all of the forzen butter is the size of peas (toss with a fork to see if you got everything). 

Add 2.5 TBSP of water and vinegar and pulse 6 times. Pinch a small amount of the mixture together between your fingers. If it does not hold together add half of the remaining water and pulse 3 times. Try the pinch test again. The mixutre will be in particles and will not hold together without being pinched. 

Once it holds together, transfer mixture back to the gallon ziploc. KNead the mixture from the outside of the bag until it all holds together and get it into a disc shape. Place in the fridge for 45 minutes or overnight.

Spread about 2 TBSP of graham cracker crumbs on your
 worksurface before rolling it out. Spread more on top of the dough - and roll into the desired shape.  Keep adding more until you've used about 1/2 cup of crumbs. this will help keep the dough from getting soggy from the lemon filling.  

Shape the dough in the pie plate - making the edges look as pretty as you can. Refridgerate the dough lined plate for 40 minutes. Then freeze for 20 minutes. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Remove pie plate from freezer, line with tin foil (all the way over the edge) and fill with weights (i use dry beans). Bake about 25-30 minutes - until crust is dry and light in color. Remove the foil and weights.
 For partially baked: continue baking until light golden brown (5-6 minutes). 
 For fully baked: bake until deep golden brown, about 12 minutes. Transfer to wire rack.

Pie recipe found here.

It turned out great! I changed my meringue "design" to be more flat - used a popsicle stick to draw lines instead of having huge peaks and valleys. It cooked much more evenly and was still very pretty.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Be your own Super Hero

Tapping into a part of your personality in a blog might show the world your love of baking, food, wine, knitting or some other activity based love. What about the part of your personality that has unique powers and abilities - the SUPER HERO you?

You can make your own Super Hero at The Hero Factory - it is worth 5 minutes of your time. Check it out. Maybe this weekend you will go into a phone booth - and come out as the Intimidating Impenetrable Chrome Girl.
Chrome Girl's Features
- Skin made of chrome (not stainless steel that collects fingerprints)
- Always carries a weapon (silicon baster at the moment)
- Face Mask and clothing made with SPF 85 organic cotton

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Fav Things: Cookbook Collection

I Y Cookbooks.

I love to collect them. Read them, and sometimes even try a recipe from them. I find that I go back to the same cookbooks over and over again and some books never get any attention after the initial honeymoon period is over. Due to the space constraints of a downtown condo - we only keep the best within reach. All others get banished to the bedroom bookshelf and even (gasp) a box in the storage unit... They have to be really bad to give away. I still go online and find recipes. Funny thing happened recently - I was looking for a recipe for Bucatini - and one review said that the recipe in the Silver Spoon was better than the recipe I was reading. So - the unknown online chef led me back to my first love - books.

Looking at this picture and trying to pick a favorite is a little like picking a favorite pair of shoes. It depends on the outfit! The most often picked: New Best Recipe, Bon Appetit, Cake Bible, Pie Bible, Mastering the Art of French Cooking Vol 1, The Italian book, and the Finnish Cookbook.

What are your favorites?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Snap Back to Reality

Oh there goes gravity...

9 days of vacation felt more like an early retirement. And guess what - we never got bored. I have to admit that I am refreshed and happy to get back into a nice productive routine - but wish it felt like summer in Minnesota already! After long days filled with knitting on the beach (me) or trying a new fish recipe (H.) - it is time to get back to reality and start baking again!

So - i have found some Spring-inspired goodies that are in the running for the next kitchen session. I'm keenly watching for new sources of inspiration - and keep finding more to add to the to-do list! What are you looking forward to making this spring? I'm looking for anything that will spread the sunshine and bring the temps above freezing!

1. To Bake: Apricot-Pineapple Cheese Braid
from piday on
Besides looking beautiful - I like that this recipe calls for farmer's cheese. My grandmother always had farmer's cheese as a 'side' for breakfast. I've never purchased it myself, but think that it would be fun to try.

2. To Bake: Braided Easter Egg Bread
from Rose's Recipes
You have to check this out - complete with the dyed easter eggs nestled in the bread. My mom made this a few times for the Easter table. I also saw the greek version when visiting Tarpon Springs, Florida. It's called Tsoureki - and had white hard cooked eggs nestled in both a braid loaf and a braid crown.

3. To Read: Rose Levy Beranbaum's master's thesis “Sifting Flour Affects the Quality of a Yellow Cake”. Check out her blog posting and find the thesis that you can download. I can't imagine a world in which I could study sifted flour and cake baking... sounds like utopia.