Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sorry for the Silence...

We have been too busy admiring our new addition...

I think I have spent almost every waking moment staring at her. She's so cute!

Welcome to the world Emma Rose! We are so glad that you are finally here!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze

Nothing much to report here except that I am completely frustrated with my unborn child. She is showing no desire to meet her Mother, opting instead to constantly play "knick knack" on my diaphragm at all hours. Come out, come out, little girl...your father and I would really like to see your face!

In the meantime, I am going to try to tempt her to come out by continuing to bake delicious sweets (raspberry leaf tea does not seem to be doing much for her!). Maybe the delicious, warming scent of my favorite banana bread recipe will make her realize that life outside the womb ain't so bad. The constant shrieks and war cries from Matthew probably scare her a bit...but you can't get freshly baked breads in utero.

The combination of coconut, bananas, and rum are a fantastic combination that always puts me in the mood for lazy summer days. A fresh lime glaze added to the top elevates this bread to a whole new level of deliciousness (if you try making this recipe, please do not skip it!!!). Paul is normally not a huge fan of coconut but loves this bread (must be the rum?). This is seriously the best way to use overripe bananas and is a great change of pace from boring (but still delicious) regular banana bread!

Coconut Banana Bread with Lime Glaze
adapted from Cooking Light Magazine, September 2003

For the Bread:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut

For the glaze:
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt.

Beat the sugar and butter with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla and beat until blended. Gently fold stir in the flour mixture with a spatula until just incorporated. Fold in the 1/2 cup coconut.

Pour batter into a greased 9x5" loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack before carefully removing from pan.

Whisk together the powdered sugar and juice. Drizzle over warm bread. Let bread cool completely on wire rack before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

TWD: Mocha Chip Cookies

This week's Tuesdays with Dorie challenge features a much easier recipe than the croissant making-fiasco that was our last posting. This time around, the group chose to make Mocha Chip Cookies from Rick Katz.

A variation on your basic chocolate chip cookie, these babies were amped up a bit thanks to the addition of instant coffee. I did not have any instant coffee on hand, so I chose to substitute instant espresso powder, but cut it down by half since espresso powder is much, much stronger. I also chose to use both dark chocolate and white chocolate chunks in the cookies. I thought the dried apricots sounded a little weird so I ended up omitting them. My husband, after trying a cookie straight out of the oven, commented that he thought the apricots would have been an awesome addition. I have no idea what he's talking about - I am so happy I omitted them because I was all about the chocolate-and-coffee combination in this recipe. I did not want any potentially healthy ingredients to get in the way of that divine pairing!

These were absolutely delicious and a recipe that I will definitely be making again in the future. I chose to freeze half the batch and share the other half with some of our friends to prevent us from eating them all in one sitting. However, freezing the cookies did not really deter us from eating them. They taste pretty good frozen and (I am a little ashamed to admit) are now completely gone. Matthew did not care for them too much, which is surprising since he is such a coffee fiend, but Paul and I really did not mind having more to ourselves!

If you would like the recipe, please head over to Peggy's blog Galettista or purchase the book!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Green Eggs and Ham

*This picture of Matthew was taken before his much-needed haircut. He now looks a little less hippyish.

I am thrilled to be featured as a guest blogger on my friend Christina's site Waltzing in Beauty. Christina is one of my best friends from our college days at Notre Dame. I miss her dearly and do not get to see her often enough now that we live in different states! She is hosting a series of posts in honor of the Encourage Beauty campaign for the month of March. You can read the guest post here.

We are all so very excited for the upcoming arrival of our new baby. Every day, my husband wakes up in the morning and asks me: "Could today be the day?" It was kind of cute at first, but after about 10 days of him asking that very same question, it has begun to irritate me. In addition to the normal fears about birth and adjusting to life with a newborn feeding schedule, I am also highly afraid of what we will be eating for meals in the following weeks.

Paul has sweetly told me over and over: "Don't worry! I will take care of everything."

And that's exactly what I am afraid of.

The first time Paul ever made me lunch, he quickly threw together an egg salad sandwich. It was my first egg salad ever and it was incredibly delicious! However, at the time, I did not realize that the only reason he made me that particular type of sandwich was because it was one of the few things he knows how to make.

Over the past five years, I have quickly learned that whenever I am out of commission (and grilling season is not quite upon us), we are doomed to choke down egg salad sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Maybe it is his secret way of motivating me to get better more quickly, but Paul certainly knows how to ruin the simple joy of a boiled egg.

When Paul offered to make dinner last night, I had a pretty faint suspicion as to what might be on the menu. I was greatly surprised and slightly disgusted when he flopped this down in front of me:

Oh yes, that is egg salad.

Why is it green?

Because Paul decided to "amp up" his normal method by mashing an avocado in with the hard boiled eggs. He also decided to be extra fancy and serve the sandwiches "open faced" with thin slices of ice-cold ham on top. His very own culinary tribute to the beloved Dr. Seuss classic "Green Eggs and Ham."

Oh yum.

I think Matthew summed it up properly when he took one horrified look at our dinner and declared: "Yuuuuck! That's gross!"

I plan to be back cooking our meals as soon as humanly possible following delivery. Otherwise, we might all starve.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sweet Irish Morning Bread

Surprisingly, Saint Patrick's Day is a feast day that excites my husband more than any other. This is surprising mainly because he does not have a smidgen of Irish blood running through his veins and he is dang proud of it. He is all about his German background even though a large chunk of his genes are Polish as well (and his son looks every bit a Polish poster child). However, while he enjoys eating bratwurst and drinking a beer in honor of Oktoberfest, when it comes to the little Irish holiday that falls on the seventeenth day of March each year, he insists that we go all out.

This might have something to do with his love for the following:

1. Guinness
2. Jamison Irish Whiskey
3. Bailey's Irish Cream
4. Irish Car Bombs
5. Beer of any type
6. Reuben Sandwiches
7. Cheese! (especially since it has been banned from our house for Lent)
8. Guinness (it deserves another spot on the list)

From this list, it is readily apparent that my guy likes to drink and eat really, really healthy stuff. In fact, I am typing this shortly after watching him down a 12 oz. steak in under 5 minutes while simultaneously perusing the Margarita section of his Bar Book. We're a healthy, healthy family.

For our Saint Patrick's Day dinner, we will be making a Guinness-glazed corned beef brisket for Reubens  (unless, of course, our baby chooses to make her appearance before then!). And Paul will probably be sipping (aka gulping) Guinness while helping me glaze the vegetables. 

However, we will also be enjoying a simple breakfast composed of Sweet Irish Bread slathered with Irish butter and served alongside steaming mugs of hot Irish coffee (sense a theme?). I have another recipe for American Soda Bread that I normally make - it has such a delightful scone-like consistency - but Matthew has difficulty with its crumbly nature. This Irish Morning Bread is a delightful alternative because it captures the flavor of American-style Irish Soda bread while sporting a softer, less delicate crust. This was another fun little baking project with my Matthew.

And I have no idea if this is an "authentic" recipe or not. My best guess is that it is about as "Irish" as we are.

Sweet Irish Morning Bread
adapted from AllRecipes.Com

Note: While I have substituted plain yogurt in the recipe with awesome results, the sour cream really makes the best loaf of bread (please do not use nonfat sour cream!).

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup raisins or currants, softened in 1/4 cup boiling water for 3-5 minutes (be sure to drain before adding to batter!)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Either by hand or using a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until completely combined and light. Beat in the eggs one at a time, making sure each egg is completely incorporated before adding the next. Blend in the sour cream.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sat, baking soda, and cream of tartar. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the sour cream mixture. Fold everything together gently with a spatula until just combined with no streaks of flour remaining. Fold in the softened, drained raisins.

Pour batter into a greased 9x5" loaf pan and bake in the preheated oven for 50-60 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the loaf pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes before turning out. Let cool completely before slicing.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Banana Muffins

We have been on a bit of a muffin kick lately...

Matthew loves to help "cook" in the kitchen. He is getting to the point where his presence in the kitchen is actually very useful. For example, he loves to help me unload the dishwasher. With all of the lower back pain I have been having, it has been amazing having a three-foot-tall munchkin hand me the plates, bowls, and dishes from the lower rack so I do not have to bend down to retrieve them. The same is true with cooking. He now knows how to properly whisk both dry and wet ingredients for baking, enabling me to simply dump ingredients into a bowl and let him go at it while I prepare the other components.

Since today was unseasonably warm, Matthew and I went for a long walk in the morning. On our way back home, it began to drizzle, so we quickly hurried inside before we got too wet. We stood at the window and watched the rain fall for just a bit before Matthew turned to me and asked: "Mommy...make muffins?" Rainy days are normally wonderful opportunities to bake, so I agreed.

Ignore the snowman muffin liners in the background. They were all I had!

These muffins have been in our recipe arsenal for over three years now and I cannot believe I have not yet shared them on here. Matthew and I make them often since he loves anything with banana and we normally have a few overripe ones laying around just waiting to be turned into banana bread, cake, or pancakes. These muffins are perfectly moist, sweet, and light. You could add a cream cheese frosting to be really fancy, but really their homey simplicity is perfectly appealing.

Banana Muffins
adapted from Giada De Laurentiis

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
4 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely mashed

Line 18-muffin cups with paper liners. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Whisk the flour, baking soda, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Beat the sugar, oil, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl to blend. Stir in the banana. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the banana mixture. Fold/stir just until blended.

Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups. Bake the muffins on the middle rack until the tops are golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean (about 20-25 minutes). Transfer the muffins to a rack and cool slightly before carefully removing from the tin.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Turkey Curry in a Hurry

Does anyone else have about 6 huge turkeys taking up ALL the space in their freezer because turkey was so gosh darn cheap right before Thanksgiving? When turkeys are priced at $0.15/pound, my husband (who loves turkey almost as much as he loves bacon) always makes multiple trips to the store to buy "just one more" turkey to roast or barbecue later for dinner, sandwiches, etc. Needless to say, we do the same with ham when it plummets around Christmastime. So pretty much the only thing we have in our freezer at the moment are ham slabs and turkey carcasses.

Last weekend, Paul decided to test out the new Weber grill he received as a Christmas gift from the best wife ever and smoke us some turkey! He chose Hickory chips and the scent was pretty overwhelming and seemed to follow us around for days after his grilling project was complete. The turkey was so moist and incredibly flavorful and we enjoyed it with mashed potatoes and gravy for the first couple nights. Then, we made soup and that really did not use up much of the remaining meat. Turkey sandwiches in all forms came next...followed shortly by this turkey curry. This used up the last of our 14-pound bird and was definitely the tastiest leftover item we made! It will definitely be on the menu again whenever we get around to roasting our next bird...which will be soon because we have five left.

Super easy and quick, we paired this delicious dinner with the onion kulcha I posted about previously. We served the curry on top of some steamed Basmati rice tossed with toasted cumin seeds. Delicious!

Turkey Curry in a Hurry
adapted heavily from America's Test Kitchen

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeds and ribs removed (optional)
1 medium onion, sliced thin
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon table salt
4 large cloves garlic, minced
4 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
2 cups vegetables, roasted*
1 cup water
2 cups cooked turkey, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup roasted, salted cashew halves
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (Do NOT substitute low-fat yogurt - the sauce will break!)

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until just shimmering. Add the onion, raisins, curry powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in the roasted vegetables, chickpeas, and water and cook, stirring frequently, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the turkey and peas and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes more.
Off the heat, stir in the yogurt and cilantro. Season with salt to taste and serve immediately.

*I cubed up two large yams, tossed them with 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil and 1 heaping teaspoon each of curry powder, garam masala, and salt and roasted them in a 450 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. We almost ate all of these by themselves while the sauce was took a lot of self control to stop.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Onion Kulcha

A few weeks ago, my parents took Paul and I out to the only Indian restaurant in town. We enjoyed a delicious spread of dishes, soups, and breads - all piping hot and served with just the right amount of spice to suit our individual tastes. I ordered my dishes on the milder side since I have been susceptible to heartburn as of late (thank you, my yet-to-be-born child!). My Mom, on the other hand, nearly burnt her face off after asking that her soup be served at a heat level rivaling the fires of hell. Thank goodness for the cooling powers of Raita! The food was delicious and I am in continual awe at the depth and complexity of Indian flavors.

One of the new breads we tried that night was an Onion Kulcha. While similar to the more commonplace naan, a Kulcha is a puffier, more tender flatbread that has been stuffed with vegetables, cheese, or herbs. The version we ordered was stuffed with a seasoned mix of onions and cilantro. It was delicious and served as a great accompaniment to our dishes.

I have made naan at home many, many times. In fact, Paul and I often make curries and the meal just never seems complete without a batch of flatbread on the side for dipping and scooping. Since we had a delicious curry on the menu for dinner this week (recipe coming soon!), I decided to try to replicate the Kulcha we had enjoyed so much at the restaurant. I found a couple recipes online that I could use as a base and then adapted the filling to what I thought was similar to the one used by the restaurant (of course this was all based on a pregnant woman's memory, so I could have been way off base!). The Kulcha dough was a breeze to throw together - everything is simply mixed and kneaded and then allowed to rest for at least 2 hours. The filling is then prepared when you are just about ready to roll out the dough. Roll the dough, spread the filling over the top, pinch the ends up together, roll the dough out again. Finally, the rounds are cooked in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat until slightly charred on the outside and cooked through. Delicious.

All in all, a pretty easy and adaptable flatbread recipe that makes a great addition to any bowl of curry. The filling can be adapted to suit your tastes - try using paneer, different types of vegetables, roasted garlic, etc. The possibilities are endless!

And yes, those are two very different sizes of Kulcha pictured below. I was experimenting with the best method to fill the breads and ended up detailing the easiest one below.

Onion Kulcha
adapted from ChefInYou

For the dough:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup oil
1/2 cup plain whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon butter (or ghee, if you have it!)
Milk or Water (as needed)

For the Filling:
1 large onion, chopped very finely
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and chopped finely (optional)
1-2 large cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp cumin
Salt to taste

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and salt. In a smaller, separate bowl, whisk together the oil, butter, and yogurt. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients. With a spatula, gradually bring everything together to moisten. If the dough appears dry (and odds are it will!), gradually add in enough milk or water to bring everything into a soft ball. I ended up adding about 1/4 cup overall. Eventually, transfer the mixture to a floured counter-top and use your hands to knead and gather the dough. The dough should feel soft and not be sticky. When the texture is right and everything appears hydrated, place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth or plastic wrap and set aside to rest for at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours.

While the dough is resting, saute the onion and jalapeno in a skillet over medium heat until softened. Add the minced garlic and cumin and continue to cook for another 30 seconds. Remove to a bowl and add salt to taste. Set aside.

When ready to cook, set a cast iron skillet over medium heat with approximately 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil. Fill a small cup with water and set it next to the skillet. Find a lid that will fit the skillet so you can cover the bread as it cooks.

Divide the dough into 8 pieces and form each piece into a small ball. Keep dough covered with a damp towel. Take one piece and roll out to a small circle, about 5-6 inches in diameter. Repeat with a second piece of dough, trying to make it roughly the exact same size. Over one piece of dough, sprinkle an even layer of filling. Then, take the second piece of dough (the one without the filling) and carefully lay it over the top. Crimp and pinch the edges together and gently pat flat, ensuring that no air bubbles remain.

Wipe the skillet free of excess oil with a wad of paper towels (be careful that you don't burn yourself - use tongs if necessary!). Sprinkle some water into the pan and then quickly lay the filled dough circle in the pan. Sprinkle the top of the dough with more water and then quickly cover. Allow to cook approximately 2 minutes, or until the edges are firm and the bottom has browned. Flip, sprinkle with more water, cover, and continue to cook 1-2 additional minutes or until cooked through. Remove cooked bread and wrap in a warm towel while you roll and cook the remaining bread.

Repeat process with remaining dough.

*If you are not serving immediately, preheat an oven to 200 degrees with an oven proof plate on the center rack. As you finish baking the breads, place them on the plate in the warm oven and cover with a damp towel. Keep in the oven until ready to serve!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

TWD: Miniature Croissants

I am going to preface this post by declaring that the recipe for this week's Tuesdays with Dorie was a royal pain in the butt. I simply hated this recipe from the get-go and I think my bad attitude completely spoiled the process of making croissants for the first time. As much as I was looking forward to flexing my baking skills by making these babies, I chose to start them at a time where I was emotionally and mentally in a bit of a frazzled state.

You see, I am getting very nervous about the upcoming labor and delivery of our new baby. In addition to the natural stress that accompanies having to face giving birth again, I am also in the midst of organizing, cleaning, and prepping for welcoming our newborn baby girl. The day I intended to start the croissant dough was a day that I had decided to completely dedicate to home projects. I had planned on starting the dough, hauling up the bins of baby clothes from the basement, and then sifting and organizing through Matthew's old sleepers and outfits to try to find the ones that were gender neutral (among other chores and activities).

So, I started the dough the night before and that did not take much time and was relatively easy. The next day, I went to get the clothes up from the basement before turning the dough for the first time. After rummaging through the boxes for a decent amount of time, I realized that our baby girl has approximately four outfits that are devoid of dinosaurs, choo-choo trains, frogs, and bold lettering proclaiming "Mommy's Handsome Guy." And they are all lime green in color.

Thus, I began to stress. I do not have any clothes for my daughter - what a horrible Mother I am! I made lists and plans to shop for last minute baby items, all the while making note of how much time I had based on when the dang croissant dough had to be rolled out again. The following day became a never-ending dance of running back and forth between various stores and the house as I continued with my last minute baby preparations. Then I realized that I had timed myself horribly with the croissants and would not be baking them until 10:00 pm. And I was ready to collapse by 5:00 pm.

I hated those croissants before I even had the chance to try them.

On top of that, rolling them out proved to be quite difficult for me. My arms for some reason had something against me, because I had a rough time getting them to work hard enough to get that dough as thin as it needed to be. I dreaded every turn of the dough because I knew it would be another unwanted workout for my upper body (and I was remarkably sore the next day!). Like I said, I had a bad attitude.

I ended up cutting the croissants way smaller than they needed to be as well, which resulted in about 40 mini-croissants instead of the 22 larger croissants the recipe was supposed to yield. I had issues with my dough tearing a bit as a stretched it, which was also majorly annoying. My dough also did not appear to rise very well once shaped, although it did become spongy in appearance as indicated in the recipe. Once they were baked, it was 10:45 at night and I was just too beat to wait for them to cool down so I could give them a taste. So I let them sit out overnight on the cooling rack. Matthew was the first one up in the morning, and he waddled downstairs and promptly helped himself to a couple of them. He seemed to enjoy them. He even tried feeding one to the cat. That was a no-go.

As for Paul and I? We were not wowed by them in the least. To me, they just tasted like biting into a stick of butter. I was kind of hoping for something with a little bit more complexity in flavor, but the only flavor I got was butter. Paul agreed...and he really, really likes butter. For such a long, irritating recipe, the results were simply underwhelming.

Thanks to our host Amanda for typing up this recipe in its entirety and posting it on her blog!