experiments in cooking

Posts tagged ‘dessert’

Grilled Barbecue Bison Burgers

On Tuesday nights, I have my in-laws and (if he’s not at work) my brother-in-law, Jeremiah, over for dinner. So every Tuesday I have to come up with a meal that will serve four to five adults and two picky children. Most other nights of the week I only have to fix enough food for two adults and the same picky children. These meals are good practice for when the boys grow up and begin to eat real food (they will some day, right?), at which point I’ll be cooking for at least four every night. I say at least four, because I understand that teenage boys can eat way more than enough for one person.

This Tuesday Chris grilled barbecue burgers for his family and ours. My main contribution was buying the meat and making the patties. I always hand-form my burger patties because we haven’t had great results with pre-made or frozen burger patties. Also, I prefer half-bison, half-beef burgers. So, I mixed together one pound of grass-fed ground beef from the Nebraska Food Coop and one pound of ground buffalo (I think I purchased it at Super Saver, from the “Local Foods” freezer). I made 8 full-size patties plus one small patty. That seems like a lot of patties for two pounds, but I think there was actually a little over a pound in each package.

While Chris grilled the burgers, liberally saucing them on the grill, I sliced a tomato that we picked up Saturday morning from the Lincoln Farmer’s Market and tore some red leaf lettuce for the burgers and for a lettuce salad. We also had pickles, dill as well as sweet gherkins, for those at the table who don’t eat salad–namely, Chris’s brother Jeremiah and our boys.

The burgers turned out great, thanks to Chris’s grilling skills. Also, I was happy that the Russ’s Market buns we ate them on cost only 79 cents. I really like to get the better-quality buns most of the time (like Sara Lee’s whole grain white buns), but sometimes I just can’t pass up a deal like 79 cents for a bag of burger buns.

At Long Last, Real Barbecue Ribs

For Labor Day, Chris and I decided to try barbecue spare ribs. We’ve tried to cook ribs before and never been quite successful. This time I’d done my research and was ready. Plus, we were working with locally grown spare ribs purchased through the Nebraska Food Cooperative, and you can pretty much count on Nebraska Food Coop meat being good.

First I sliced the spare ribs into two-rib sections. Then I placed them in a small stock pot and covered them with water. I brought the water to a boil, then turned it down to medium and simmered the ribs, covered, for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I drained the ribs and sent them outside with Chris, who grilled them over a medium-hot grill, adding sauce however he wished, for 15 minutes until they were browned and slightly crispy. The result was delicious! We have finally succeeded. The best part: Mr. Picky himself, four-year-old Jonah, liked the ribs too.

We kept supper simple and paired the ribs with a lettuce salad for us and fruit for the boys, then a raspberry crunch with light whipped cream for dessert.

My First Pie – Peach Raspberry Pie

This past Saturday, I made the first pie I’ve ever made on my own in my entire life–a peach-raspberry pie made with fresh fruit from Martin’s Hillside Orchard just north of Lincoln.

I have to confess right up front that I used a storebought pie crust. I’ve been a little dough-shy since my last run-in with making a shortbread crust. I do know the mistake I made with that crust–adding sugar to sweeten it, which resulted in making it sticky and unmanageable. But even knowing what went wrong, I’m not yet ready to try another crust, so storebought it is, until I work up a little pluck. I am determined to try a crust again this fall. Just not yet.

I used a Joy of Cooking recipe for the pie; I use Joy of Cooking  recipes when they aren’t too complicated, because they do offer a lot of details around the fundamentals of cooking that I don’t find in recipes elsewhere.

The best tip I got on preparing the topping was to drop the peaches in boiling water for approximately one minute so that the skin would peel off easily. It worked like a dream. For the rest of my life, I will never peel peaches without boiling them first.

Last week, with baking pies on my mind, I did a fair bit of research online about the best temperature at which to bake a pie. Most recipes seem to call for baking the pie at 350 or 375 for at least an hour. Some recipes call for baking the pie at a higher temperature for 20-30 minutes and then lowering it to 350. This recipe was one of the latter, directing me to bake the pie at 425 for 30 minutes and then at 350 for 25-35 minutes more. In this case, I found that after lowering the temperature to 350, the pie was done in just 15 additional minutes, for a total baking time of 45 minutes.

In the process of making the pie, I discovered that I don’t own a 9-inch glass pie pan. I had to settle for a 10-inch pan, which did, as I had worried it would, result in juice from the filling bubbling up and over the crust which just wasn’t quite big enough for the pan. Fortunately, I had placed the pie on a baking sheet for the last half of the baking, and the baking sheet caught all the overflow. I faced quite a bit of work afterward getting peach-raspberry jelly off the baking sheet and pie pan, but better baked-on pie filling on those dishes than on the bottom of my stove.

I did make one mistake that I will not make again: adding too much lemon as a result of misreading the recipe. In fact, I tripled the amount of lemon juice. Which is probably why the finished pie was a little on the tart side–very tasty, but tart.

My next pie to try: apple pie. But first I want a fancy rotary apple peeler to avoid the nightmare of peeling apples by hand, something that I don’t think I’ve ever done. Currently I am waiting on a gift card for Bed, Bath & Beyond to arrive so I can get one.

All Good but the Crispy Garlic

Last night I tried two new dishes: angel hair pasta with olive oil and garlic, and a raspberry crunch (adapted from a cranberry crunch recipe).

The angel hair pasta was a side dish for salmon baked in lemon sauce. My Joy of Cooking warned me not to add cheese to the pasta dish, and I’m glad I didn’t. The fish and pasta went together well. The only problem I had was that the recipe instructed me to saute the garlic for about two minutes, but within just one minute it was browned and crisp. So we had a bit of crispy garlic  texture in our pasta.

The raspberry crunch also was based on a Joy of Cooking recipe. It was extremely easy to put together, and featured my favorite new baking ingredient: oatmeal. The recipe was originally a “cranberry crunch,” but I substituted raspberries for cranberries and cut back on the amount of added sugar. I also had slightly less than the 1 cup of brown sugar called for–about 3/4 cup, so I scaled back the other dry ingredients slightly as well and had to settle for less topping on top of the raspberries. I made sure the bottom crust. Also, I fortunately have an 8×8 pan, which the recipe is written for.

After dinner, I threw out the leftover pasta. We convinced Jonah to suck up a noodle or two, but Neeley wouldn’t touch it, so there was a lot left, and I don’t much like reheated pasta. I hope to eat more of the raspberry crunch tonight, however–and perhaps it will be firm enough, now that it is cool, to cut into bars as the recipe suggests–but I have my doubts.

Joy of Cooking‘s Cranberry [or raspberry] Crunch

Butter an 8″x8″ baking dish.

Combine:
1 c old-fashioned or quick-cooking rolled oats
1 c packed dark brown sugar (I had only light brown sugar)
1/2 c all-purpose flour
1/2 t salt. (I used only 1/4 teaspoon, with the salty apple crisp I made recently so fresh in my mind)

Add:
8 T (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

Cut the butter into the dry mixture until it’s crumbly but holds together when pressed. Spread half the mixture over the bottom of the baking dish, and press very gently with your hand, packing it very slightly.

Cover with:
3 c fresh or frozen cranberries, picked over. (I used raspberries) 

Sprinkle with:
1/2 c sugar. (I used approximately 1/3 cup sugar) 

Top the sugar-sprinkled cranberries with the remaining crumb mixture. Bake until the fruit is tender and the crunch is firm and well-browned, about 50-60 minutes. Let cool for 20-30 minutes. Cut into squares and serve warm.

Ginger Pear Muffin Success!

I have had a box of ripe pears, given by a friend whose mother has two prolific pear trees, sitting in my basement for a while, and Saturday afternoon I decided it was time to make something with the pears or be forced to throw them out. I decided to try Ginger Pear Muffins, a recipe that came from the friend who gave me the pears. I had a little trouble here and there, but, to my delight, they turned out delicious.

The hardest part of the process was peeling and chopping the pears. They were so soft that it was difficult to grip them or core them, and juice was flying everywhere. But eventually I got the job done. I also had to create my own “buttermilk” by adding a tablespoon of vinegar to a cup of milk. Finally, with different amounts of brown sugar called for in the muffin mix and the topping, I wound up using the wrong amount for the muffin mix itself and then having to figure out how much more I needed to make the amount approximately correct.

I would have been entirely happy with this cooking episode except that my sons refused to eat the muffins. Neeley wouldn’t eat a bite even when Chris and I tried shoving one into his mouth. Jonah took one bite, then said, “These aren’t good muffins,” and when told to eat more, he managed to gag several times at the taste of a bit of pear and actually vomited the muffin onto the table. The incident soured my baking victory somewhat.

I probably could have gotten Jonah to eat the muffin if I had rewarded him with a candy bar. But it just doesn’t feel right to reward a child with one sweet for eating another sweet. Somehow, I am going to have to teach the boys to appreciate home-baked treats.

Below is the final recipe, including possible substitutes for buttermilk.

Ginger Pear Muffins

Ingredients
2 ½ cups cups(625 mL) all-purpose flour (625 mL)
1 tsp(5 mL) baking soda (5 m
1 tsp(5 mL) (5 mL) ground ginger
½ tsp(2 mL) salt(2 mL) sss
½ tsp (2 mL) cinnamon(2 mL)
¾ cup (175 mL) (175 mL) packed brown sugar
1/3 cup (75 mL) vegetable oil
1 egg 
1 cup (250 mL) buttermilk (or milk mixed with 1 T vinegar or lemon juice or ¾ tsp cream of tartar)
2cups (500 mL) chopped peeled pears 

Topping:
1/3 cup(75 mL) packed brown sugar
2 tsp(10 mL) butter, melted
1/4 tsp(1 mL) ground ginger

Preparation:
In bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, ginger, salt and cinnamon. In separate bowl, whisk brown sugar with oil; whisk in egg and buttermilk. Pour over dry ingredients; sprinkle with pears and stir just until dry ingredients are moistened. Spoon batter into greased or paper-lined muffin cups.

Topping: In bowl, combine brown sugar, butter and ginger; sprinkle over batter in muffin cups.

Bake in center of 350°F (180°C) oven until tops are firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.

Freezing My Zucchini

I did very little of what I’d call “real” cooking this week. For example, last night we had salad (red leaf lettuce, torn into bite-size pieces by yours truly) and Digiorno Flatbread pepperoni pizza, along with peas for the boys (which they did not eat), a banana for Neeley, and apple sauce for Jonah. Neeley was very upset about the pepperoni being spicy. He spat it out, then was yelling at me,  hopping up and down in his booster seat, and pointing at his tongue, and I was saying, “Take a drink! Take a drink!” But he wouldn’t listen to me … after all, I don’t know anything.

But back to the subject at hand. While the pizza was baking, I decided to grate the zucchini that has been sitting on my countertop since Monday. I decided against baking the chocolate zucchini cake I’ve had in mind (recipe courtesy of friend Abby) because I wouldn’t have the opportunity to serve it to any guests this weekend. Instead, I planned to grate and freeze the zucchini. I did a little research online and decided to just squeeze out all the water I could and freeze the zucchini without any blanching or added salt. I hope to use the zucchini within a few weeks and I don’t expect it to lose much of its baking value in a short time.

The grating went easier this time although I wasted several minutes trying to grate it using my mini food processor. I ended up throwing the food processor in the trash can–its days of usefulness are over–and I went back to the old-school grater. This time I did not peel the zucchini. I did have to pick out an awful lot of seeds, however.

Looking forward to making that chocolate zucchini cake! In which I intend to use NO apple sauce. I need to see what it tastes like without any risky substitution.

Success — Sort of Healthy Oatmeal Cookies

Saturday I tried a new recipe for oatmeal cookies, and they actually turned out great! They were called “Healthy Oatmeal Cookies,” but I added M&M’s because Chris’s birthday is tomorrow and I thought we’d all enjoy some pre-birthday Monster Cookies.  The result was delicious.

I made the cookies with white whole wheat flour and honey I’ve had in the cabinet a long time but hadn’t even opened. I thought about leaving out the molasses but picked some up at Walmart so I could try the recipe with the molasses at least once. (And I’m glad I did–I like the taste.) I also was able to use up some of the M&Ms we got “for free” from Chris’s mom, who sent them home with the boys a couple of weeks ago. I baked them for the minimum time suggested by the recipe and baked them on wax paper instead of directly on the cookie sheet, something I’d never tried before.

The recipe is below.

Healthy Oatmeal Cookies (with Honey)

Dry ingredients

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour (a pinch more depending on the moisture of the mix)
  • 1 ½ to 1 ¾ cups of Large Flake Rolled Oats (smaller flake is ok too)
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Cinnamon
  • ½ tsp Nutmeg (optional)

Wet ingredients

  • ½ cup honey (or try 1/4 cup honey, 1/4 cup brown sugar)
  • ½ cup oil (corn or olive; you can also use some applesauce to replace some of the oil if you wish)
  • 1 Tablespoon Molasses (maple syrup may work as substitute, or you can leave out entirely if you use brown sugar with honey. Note: brown sugar can substitute for molasses: 1.5 c brown sugar=1 c molasses)
  • 1 egg (beat with 1 Tbsp water. Note: one cook has substituted half a banana, mashed and beaten, for the egg)
  • 1 tsp Vanilla (may use additional ¼ tsp if desired)

Yummy ingredients (optional)

  • ½ cup raisins, other dried berries, or chocolate chips (more if desired)
  • ½ cup walnuts (optional—or add more if desired)
  • ½ cup Shredded carrots or zucchini 
  1. In a large bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix all the wet ingredients together. Hint: when measuring out honey, spray measuring cup with oil or baking spray so your honey won’t stick).
  3. Mix the wet stuff with the dry stuff. Add the raisins and walnuts and mix. If the mixture seems too wet, add a bit of flour. If it isn’t binding together very well, you may wish to add an egg white.
  4. Cool the mix for 20 minutes in the fridge.
  5. Preheat the oven to 335 degrees (lower temperature due to the honey in the recipe which will burn more easily).
  6. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto baking sheet (I recommend lining the baking sheet with parchment paper). Press with fork to ensure even cooking. Alternatively, make as bar cookies, spreading dough out in a pan.
  7. Bake for about 15–20 minutes or until golden on the bottom of the cookie. The cookies freeze very well and make a great snack! Enjoy.

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