Tuesday, July 31, 2012

More Recipes From The Pioneer Woman

Mindy here, and it's no secret that Missy and I love the Pioneer Woman, Ree Drummond. When I'm looking for something new and yummy to satisfy my family, she seems to be my go-to person. So last week at the ranch when I wanted something different and sweet to feed my guys, I pulled one of Ree's recipes that I'd printed out a while back.

Strawberry Oat Bars. Doesn't it just sound good?

Here's what you'll need (ignore the laundry basket in the background):


  • 1 3/4 sticks salted butter, cut into pieces, plus more for greasing pan
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup oats
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • One 10 to 12-ounce jar strawberry preserves

  • (A couple of Tex notes. At home I buy my brown sugar in two pound bags. But at the ranch, I don't use it as often. So when I discovered these Redi-Measure pouches, I was all over that. Each packet contains one quarter cup and they keep for a LONG time. I love that.

    Second note, I wanted to cut back on the sugar, so I used the Smuckers Low-Sugar variety. This stuff is great. No artificial sweeteners added, just half the sugar!)

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch rectangular pan.

    Mix together the butter, flour, oats, brown sugar, baking powder and salt.
    (Tex note: I used a pastry cutter for most of it, but ended up using my hands to make sure everything was well mixed.)

    Press half the oat mixture into the prepared pan.

    Spread with the strawberry preserves.

    Sprinkle the other half of the oat mixture over the top and pat lightly.

    Bake until light brown, 30 to 40 minutes.

    Let cool completely, and then cut into squares.

    How's that for easy? And we're all about easy. Right? The only thing better than easy is easy AND yummy. These are dangerously yummy.

    Do you have a favorite chef/cook/cookbook you tend to gravitate to when looking for recipes? Aside the ever-popular Betty Crocker Cookbook, that is.



    Monday, July 30, 2012

    Midwestern Beer Brats



    “Hot enough for ya?”
    “It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.”
                            And its partner, “It’s a dry heat, just like your oven.”
    And my favorite?
    “Satan called. He wants his weather back.”

    Face it, this summer has been brutal, rivaling the 1930’s dust bowl era.
    In our part of the country, drought has been the killer.

    Check out this link to see how things are in your neck of the woods (sorry Ausjenny and others outside the US – couldn’t find a world link!): http://droughtmonitor.unl.edu/monitor.html
    Our area (the Black Hills of South Dakota) is classified as “extreme drought”. That means fire bans. All fires.

    The problem? I have a charcoal grill.
    Yeah, I know, gas is more convenient. But a gas grill just doesn’t give you that smoky flavor…

     Anyway, I haven’t been able to use my grill since June.
         No 4th of July barbeque!
                    No Saturday night burgers!
                                    And {gasp!} no brats!
    What’s a mid-western gal going to do to feed her family?

    Believe it or not, a southern belle came to my rescue.
    (No, not Missy. The other one. Paula.)
    This recipe was one her show one day back in June (before my daughter was employed and still had time to watch daytime TV), and when I thought I couldn’t stand going without brats one more week, I remembered it.
    I’m rating this one “pretty easy”. You do have to open the beer cans…

    Oh, and for those who don’t drink? There’s no alcohol in the finished product. It all gets simmered away - or you can use water or non-alcoholic beer.

    Midwestern-Style Beer Brats
    With thanks to the Deen brothers for the original recipe.
    (Which I changed, of course. I can never leave those recipes alone!)
    Ingredients:
    •  10 fresh (not smoked or pre-cooked) bratwurst sausages (I used Johnsonville)
      • (This is to serve seven people, three with large appetites. Make as many brats as you need.)
    •   6  16 ounce, or 8 12 ounce cans of beer (buy the cheapest you can find)
    •  1 large onion, sliced and divided into two piles
    •  A variety of peppers – I used those little bell peppers you can get in yellow, orange and red, and threw in a few slices of green pepper to go with them.
    • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
    • Black pepper, to taste
    • 10 brat buns or hoagie rolls
    • Mustard – don’t skimp on this. Get the best German-style, stone-ground mustard you can find.
    So, first we boil the brats in the beer. Empty the cans of beer into a large pot and add half the sliced onions. Prick the brats all over with a fork, and then drop them in. Bring the pot to a boil and simmer 15 minutes.



    Meanwhile, in a large skillet or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the remaining onions and the peppers. Cook about 15 minutes, or until they’re very soft, stirring and tossing occasionally.


     
    When the brats are done simmering, add them to the skillet with about a quarter cup of the cooking liquid. Turn the heat up a smidge and stir the brats, peppers and onions together until the brats start browning (between 5 and 15 minutes). Add more liquid if necessary to keep the peppers from scorching. As they’re cooking, season with a few grinds from your pepper grinder (or shakes from your shaker).

    Split the buns, if they aren’t already sliced. Slather one side of the bun with mustard and add your brat along with as many of the sautéed peppers and onions you desire.

    And the corn? I used the microwave method Missy shared with us a few weeks ago, of course!






    Saturday, July 28, 2012

    Simply Saturday Chicken Lo Mein Revised!!!

    I'm experimenting with making Lo Mein.
    Lo Mein like I buy at a Chinese restaurant.
    Lo Mein that tastes WONDERFUL...

    With a sauce that clings and leaves you wishing for more.

    I think I"ve got it and it's fairly easy. Therefore it qualifies for "Simply Saturday!"

    First, here are your ingredients:




    2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
    2 cups water
    1 1/2 Tablespoons Chicken base or 3 bouillon cubes
    1 Tablespoon garlic (granulated or a couple of cloves, crushed
    1 teaspoon ginger
    1 package Broccoli Slaw or Rainbow Salad
    1 can water chestnuts, chopped (drained)
    1 can bamboo shoots, chopped (drained)

    For sauce:
    Chicken broth from above
    Splash of Sesame oil
    1/2 cup Soy sauce
    1/4 cup corn starch
    1 cup water
    2 Tablespoons Oyster sauce

    1 lb. spaghetti style pasta (or fettucine, or linguine, or angel hair) cooked al dente.

    Heat water in large frying pan. Add a spritz of sesame oil. The brown splotches you see here:


    Add chicken seasoning, garlic and ginger. Mix. Add chicken, bring to gentle boil, cover and simmer about 5-10 minutes until chicken is just cooked through. Remove chicken to platter. Save liquid from chicken in small saucepan.



    Cook pasta according to label directions, but don't overcook. Lo Mein is better with a firm pasta. Drain when done. While that's cooking:

    Add a splash of olive oil to the now empty frying pan. Heat. Add the vegetables, all of them. Stir fry quickly over medium high heat, giving them just enough time to warm through and become slightly tender. You want a bit of crunch going on. 



    And in a two-quart saucepan on the smaller burner do this:

    Add corn starch to soy sauce and blend with whisk. Add all ingredients into the 2 quart pan with the chicken broth from cooking chicken and heat. Mixture will thicken as it heats.





    Pour over vegetables. Toss lightly.


    Add chicken. Toss again. Mix entire pan with drained pasta.

    Serve.



    The nice thing is that Lo Mein can be done meatless KAV!!!!  :)  And you can flavor the broth with veggie broth instead of chicken. I'm not sure how to get around the oyster sauce. This is a "secret" ingredient that gives Lo Mein that yummy indefinable background flavor and adds to the "clinginess" of the sauce. 

    We liked this even better than my first attempt at Lo Mein a few weeks ago. This was restaurant worthy and shrimp or beef or pork could be substituted for the chicken. 

    This easily fed six people on two chicken breasts. I mean really.... who can't celebrate that????


















    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Buttermilk Green Goddess Dressing

    Missy, here. I love getting my hair colored--for obvious reasons like covering the roots and adding highlights. :) But I also love the fact that my salon subscribes to Bon Appetit Magazine! I get to look at it for 30 minutes while waiting for the color to hide my gray. :) In fact, I've fallen in love with the magazine and recently subscribed.


    Before I subscribed, I would jot recipes on scrap paper in my purse. This is one of those recipes from the April 2012 issue. I made it last week.


    from Bon Appetit April 2012

    Ingredients

    • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
    • 1/3 cup buttermilk
    • 1/4 cup chopped fresh chives
    • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon
    • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    • 2 anchovy fillets packed in oil (drained, chopped)
    • 1 chopped garlic clove
    • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


    Preparation

    • In a processor, purée the first 8 ingredients until smooth. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. DO AHEADCan be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and chill.


    So that was the recipe off the website. Now, I'll share the photos and my own comments...




    Oh, and I couldn't resist! Some cilantro (below) that I bought at the same time I bought the dressing ingredients. I had to  throw it in the photos for those of you who said they can't stand it. LOL


    hahahhaha!
      Okay, back to the real ingredients. I chopped the herbs and garlic.




    Then I chopped the anchovies. Okay, I'll admit, I was scared of these. I'd never bought them before. But I've always loved Ceasar dressing and thought I'd give this a try.









    Then I tossed it all in my small smoothie blender (which I love!)







    Look what a beautiful green it is!




    Note the bottle of lemon juice in the back. I forgot a fresh lemon!





    I grabbed a few salad greens, tomatoes and some broccoli to make a side salad. Then added my dressing.






    This dressing is so fresh and earthy. But I admit, I'm going to leave out the anchovies next time. I had trouble getting the taste out of my mouth! I'm not sure if it was just too much (maybe one filet would have been enough). Or maybe the brand was stronger than others. Either way, I'm leaving it out next time and will really enjoy the fresh herbs and lemon. :)


    Have y'all ever made green goddess?

    Thursday, July 26, 2012

    Rice and Fruit Salad

    Oh my stars, guess who forgot to plug in her post for Thursday????

    I blame Dave. He's got this week off and a girl gets positively distracted by all that muscle... the wood piles... the sound of a chainsaw reclaiming my yard at long last!!!

    Clearly, it's his fault I'm a dunce and can't keep my days of the week straight if the littlest thing changes.

    You would think lists would help, right?

    But then you have to find the lists.

    Oy.

    And you'd think "Wow! Ruthy has a SMART phone. With a Make a List App!!!  Surely she could access that????"

    Not when the phone is smarter than the user.

    So anyway, here's what should have posted five hours ago:

    Rice and Fruit Salad

    (The reason for this salad is that we kind of sort of invited ourselves and possibly a few others to a party last Sunday... In doing so, we realized that one Fried Turkey wouldn't be enough and that an extra salad or dish to pass might be in everyone's best interests. In reality, WE WERE CORRECTAMUNDO! So this is the cupboard salad I threw together to balance the decadent chocolate peanut butter chip cookies I brought)



    1 can pineapple chunks
    1 can mandarin oranges
    3 nectarines, chopped medium (skin on)
    3 cups pineapple rice made with basmati rice or some rice that is not gooey, Missy!!! (to follow)
    2 cups vanilla pudding (I used homemade, recipe below)
    1 pint whipping cream, whipped and lightly sweetened

    Drain fruit in cans, reserve liquid. Add enough water to make 3 cups. Add 2 tablespoons sugar and a splash of olive oil to liquid. Bring to boil. Add 1 1/2 cups rice to boiling syrup water. Bring back to boil, cover and simmer until liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.



    If you're in a hurry like I was because (sigh....) you're on a time frame, chill finished rice in FREEZER. Hey, whatever works, right????

    Make pudding while rice simmers:

    Melt 2 tablespoons butter
    Mix 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup cornstarch. Add to butter.
    Whisk in 2 cups milk and 2 egg yolks.

    Heat to boiling over medium/medium high heat, stirring constantly while reading Mary Connealy's In Too Deep. (Yes, I'm behind in my reading too! Oy!!!)



    Place plastic wrap over pudding and chill in freezer. If you're making this the day before like a normal person, the whole freezing thing isn't exactly necessary.

    Whip cream. Taste for accuracy and deliciousness and possible poisonous effects. If no poisonous reaction occurs (and there's still whipped cream remaining), set in fridge until ready to assemble.

    You can throw mini-marshmallows in here. A lot of recipes call for that. I don't like when they get all squishy, wet sticky sweet, so I'm not doing that in this recipe. I tried it and liked it better with the less-sweet taste and texture of the rice/fruit/dressing.

    NOW:

    Mix rice, fruit, pudding together. Fold in whipped cream. Garnish with fruit if desired, or hurriedly pack in car along with apparatus to fry Oreos in beer batter and rush to party. But don't speed!!!! And try to remember they closed Hill Road to replace the old bridge....

    But here's the thing: If you bring cookies, delicious fruit salad and make folks fried Oreos while they lounge in the back yard, they're very forgiving.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    Literature inspired desserts

    Hello, Yankee Belle Cafe! The Fresh Pioneer is back and we've been very busy eating fresh berries here in the Northwest. I'm lucky to live within 10 miles of a U-pick blueberry farm, and they just started selling raspberries and peaches, too. $1.50 a pound can't be beat!!
    Of course, you have to brave the spiders and bugs and thunderstorms, but that's okay! These are worth it.
    Here are some small people that are 'helping' me wash and sort the bluerries. Huh. Why is his hand near his mouth??
    Probably just eating one of these little gals.
    Protein.
    Bonus....
    The only problem is that after you've made jam,
    graham cracker and fruit and vanilla yoghurt parfait (with Rekas, which taste like huckleberries).
    and bowl after bowl of giant, sweet Toros (the type we've had recently),

    you start to wonder....
    What can we do to CORRUPT these healthy, little beauties??

      Usually I try to avoid the whole sugar/fruit/lard crust concotion because it's like cocaine. At least to me. But I was reading Alan Bradley's 'The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie' and had a sudden desire for... PIE. (Which is odd because the pie is a murder weapon in the story but hey, I blame his plucky heroine Flavia De Luce for her bad influence. Here's a little picture of her on her bicycle, Gladys.)
     
    Anyway, how can we have our pie and not eat TOO MUCH OF IT, too??
    That is the question.
    And here is the answer. Ramekins.
    In case any of you are applauding my cleverness, just remember that some people in my family won't eat their pie. That means I get leftovers.
     MORE PIE FOR ME!
    *ahem*
       (This also applies to my husband, who doesn't eat sweets. Isn't that terrible? When we were dating, I thought he was so gallant, offering me his slice of whatever dessert was. No. He just doesn't eat that much sugar. We've learned to forgive each other this small difference of opinion.)

    Blueberries. Washed. Picked over. Lady bugs released outside.
    Uh, oh. I spy a stem. This isn't the end of the world, but I try to get them out. If not, more fiber, right?

    For 8 cups of berries, I used 1/4 cup of lime juice. I like lime better than lemon. And add the sugar. I will not say how much I put in. :) Maybe a cup. Or two.
    Some people like blueberry-peach, blueberry-apricot, blueberry-raspberry. I like cinnamon in mine. I think it really brings out a deep flavor in the berries. So, for a 4 cup pie, I'd put in 1/4 tsp of cinnamon. For this batch of 8 cups I put in 1/2 tsp. Mmmmm....  Smelling delicious already.
    Adding the thickener is up to you, since it will be confined to a ramekin. I added corn starch because I actually like the flavor.
    Pie crust. From a box, or from the freezer section. Or using CRISCO SHORTENING in the old style recipe!! (I'm scared just reading that, but it will be worth it.) Cut into half inch strips.
    Pretty. Flavia would be so pleased. The perfect murder weapon.
    Or an old-fashioned version if you don't have the time or coordination to make tiny lattice work pies the size of your palm.
    Waitaminute. Don't I have six million kids (like Mary Curry so aptly put it)? Ah. Here's one of theirs.
    I wasn't very sure how much time these would take so I set it for 15 minutes and checked them every so often. Oh, and put them on a cookie sheet. Your oven will thank you. 
    Super hot. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO EAT.
    You will regret it and your tastebuds will never forgive you. Hot pie will kill you. Just ask Flavia.
    Oh, MERCY. Is it cool yet?????
    This is my big hot mess of pie, with a few spoonfulls of homemade apricot ice cream on top.
     Yes, it was good.
    No, there was none left.
    Stinkin' kids. :)