Cooking Challenges (or a big mistake)

I have a (bad) habit of making lists of things I want to try in the cooking/baking department that I just lose track of over time.
Here are the things from 2014 that I didn’t get around to, and that begs the question; do I just chuck this list and start over or do I try again?
Or do I just stop making lists altogether?

Baking bread, real bread with yeast. Scary prospect.
Spaghetti squash – pure curiosity. There is no other explanation.
Eclairs, and by definition, Pastry cream.
Hot dog chili- no beans. Better than the stuff in the can. Because I don’t care for hot dogs, but I do love a good chili dog.

Seems an amazingly short list for me, but somehow I’m sure it will bite me in the ass just for mentioning it.

Hamburger Steak with mushrooms and onion gravy

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Hamburger Steak with mushroom and onion gravy

My mom (here it is again) used to make hamburger steaks for us when I was young and I really enjoyed them.  She would heat a cast iron skillet to just about blazing and put salt in the bottom, then add the ground beef patty.  The layer of salt seasoned and kept it from sticking. Kind of like cornmeal on a pizza crust.  But for a blog, this is just more brown food. Thank goodness the MotH has a way with a camera and for that I am ever grateful.

I think this came to mind when one of my favorite places (Shaggy’s) had it on the special board a few weeks ago. Didn’t order it, but thought about all the things I like about this really simple meal. I mean, mushrooms and onions are involved. What’s not to love? Got me. I looked up several recipes, but decided to put together a version that would work for me. A bit of meatloaf idea, but not quite really.

1 pound ground beef
1 egg
1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs (one piece sandwich bread)
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 tsp McCormick Montreal Seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbs olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, sliced
8 ozs mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbs flour
1 cup beef broth

Process bread in food processor until finely ground. Mix, by hand, ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, black pepper, Montreal seasoning, salt, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce. Form into 4 patties.
Heat olive oil in skillet in medium heat. Add patties to the pan, do not crowd. Sear on both sides 3-4 minutes each. Add sliced onions to the pan and cover pan cooking for 4 minutes more. Remove patties to plate and keep warm.
Add mushrooms and cook until the release juices and start to dry out a bit. Spread flour over pan, and cook for 3 minutes. Slowly add broth.
Once gravy thickens, return patties and turn heat down to low simmer. Cover and cook for 8 minutes. Uncover and let simmer 7 minutes more. Serve warm.

Brunch – my favorite meal of the week

New website that we found that I find highly amusing. This was one of my favorites, particularly the Hierarchy of a Bloody Mary

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My favorite brunch place

I am a huge fan of brunch, especially at one of my favorite places, Jaco’s at the Palafox Pier marina in downtown Pensacola at the very end of Palafox Street. I mean the idea of sitting outside with a nice breeze and a mimosa each Sunday for nine to ten months a year. Life could be so much worse.

I do wish I could do the brunch thing everyday, but for that I would have to move to NOLA and, as much as I love that place, I wouldn’t because I would have to leave the bay and the beach. Can’t do that. Just not possible. I’ve never been happier any where than here.

So I’ll take my weekly brunch and enjoy myself. A poinsettia (champagne and cranberry) does make make me happy and three can set me up for the whole day. Even if I have to forgo brunch until there is the next weekend. Ugh. Work is just a thing.  That I hate, but there it is.

French Silk Pie

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French Silk Pie

I was young-ish in one of my first jobs. This real proper job, because I was not going to go to college (how things change), was at a regional office of a fast food restaurant. One of our things was birthday celebrations for those of us in the office. And celebrations equalled pies from Village Inn. While I’m not a huge chocolate fan, and it was not my pie to order (read: lemon), French Silk was a favorite of just about everyone. My friend Marie gave me her recipe at the time and I made and enjoyed it, and while I cannot find it now, this one is not to far off the mark, and also better than I remember. It’s not too sweet, light, but slightly rich too. Small pieces are in order.

I was surprised to find that the name French Silk Pie didn’t translate to everyone. By definition, French Silk is a mousse-like chocolate pie. Am I being, as I’m often accused, a food snob again? Probably. And yes, raw eggs are used – get over it.

French Silk Pie
1 9″ pie crust, baked and cooled *
4 ozs bittersweet chocolate
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp espresso powder (optional)
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 1/2 sticks, unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
Additional whipping cream, for topping

Heat the chocolate in a microwave on medium power until melted. Whisk in vanilla and espresso powder, if using, and set aside to cool.

In a medium bowl, beat the heavy cream on high until stiff peaks form, 2-3 minutes. Cover and refrigerate until needed.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed for one minute. Add the sugar and continue beating until light and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Add the melted chocolate and beat until incorporated. Add 2 eggs and beat on medium speed for 3 minutes. Add the remaining egg and beat for another 3 minutes until the mixture is silly and smooth.

Fold the chilled whipped cream into chocolate filling until no visible white streaks remain. Pour filling into prepared pie crust and smooth with an offset spatula. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours, but preferably overnight. Decorate with freshly whipped cream.

Source: The Kitchn

Notes: I used my graham cracker crust* from the Three Cities of Spain Cheesecake, my go to cheesecake recipe that never fails to impress. Here are the details:

5 ozs graham crackers (1 sleeve)
5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt

In the bowl of a food processor, pulse crackers, sugar, and salt to mix together. Add melted butter, and pulse to incorporate. Press into pie plate and refrigerate until needed.

Pecan Sandies

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Pecan Sandies

When you have really great local pecans, as we do, well there is no excuse for not making pecan sandies. They are basically a shortbread – lots of butter and no eggs. The sweetness of the pecans really comes through and the crunch topping of sugar just seals the deal. I made these at the request of a friend that I was going to see for about a day in Tallahassee. She’s a huge chocolate fan, and I, am not. But she mentioned liking pecans and I just knew what I had to make. I had this recipe for years and sort of misplaced it, but thanks to the wonder that is google, I found it again a couple of years ago. It is truly amazing and really simple. Make it one day, let it refrigerate over night and bake the next day. Mine are never round.  None of my refrigerator cookies/crackers are. They are odd rectangular-ish things, but who cares? They taste great!

16 Tbs unsalted butter, room temperature
1/3 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups pecans, coarsely chopped

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and 1/3 cup sugar and salt at medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in vanilla, and in low speed, scraping down the bowl until the dough just comes together. Add the pecans and beat just until the are incorporated and lightly broken up. Divide dough in half and form into 2 inch thick logs and wrap in plastic and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Cut dough into 1/4 inch thick slices, arrange on baking sheet, and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly golden brown, turning half way through. Let cool on baking sheet for a few minutes and then transfer to rack to cool completely.

Source: Food & Wine via Angie Mosier with modifications.

Lemon White Chocolate Butter Cookies

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Lemon White Chocolate Butter Cookies

This recipe is from Bakewise: The Hows and Whys of Successful Baking by Shirley Corriher. I first “met” Shirley on Alton Brown’s show Good Eats. She is, of all things, a biochemist. I’m not entirely sure what that is.

I do love all things lemon, but this just sounded like a weird combination – lemon and white chocolate? But, I trusted Alton and, by extension, Shirley. Also she was totally charming on Good Eats. I won’t go into the science in this except to say that, I don’t understand it, and it just works amazingly well.

1 cup unsalted butter, cut in 2 Tbs pieces
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp light corn syrup
1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 Tbs grated lemon zest
2 large egg yolks
2 cups all purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1 cup white chocolate chips

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream butter, sugar, salt, corn syrup, lemon extract, and lemon zest until light and creamy. Add yolks, one at a time, beat until blended in thoroughly.

On low speed, add flour, scraping the sides and bottom of bowl. Stir in white chocolate chips. Divide dough and roll into log about 2 inches in diameter. Wrap each roll in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover baking sheet with parchment. Slice cookies into 3/8 inch slices and arrange 1 inch apart on the sheet. Bake until edges just beginning to brown, about 13 minutes. Cool on pan 2 minutes, then remove to cooling rack.

21 December 2008 – bake about 12 minutes, vvg, great flavors  – slightly surprising; went over well at the office – need to make more.

2 January 2009 – 325 degrees for 13 minutes = perfect

18 January 2009

2 February 2010 – 325 degrees 13 minutes

25 August 2012

7 March 2015 – took some to work and to Shaggy’s.

Think I may make them just a bit too much? Nope. It is a strange (odd) recipe, but it totally works.

Get It Right Spatula – the Lime Edition

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Get It Right Spatula – Lime edition

I am throwing out another spatula – and that is a good thing.  I have found, pretty much, the perfect spatula for me. Strong, sturdy, heat resistant, and, most importantly, a great size for my small hands. I purchased the first one in December and this one – Lime – in February. I plan to replace all but two of my spatulas with these over time. I’m going for black next time – kind of moody and cool. Especially after yellow and lime green – two of my favorite colors, but they are slightly twee. Can’t help myself.

The price is excellent ($16) and the shipping, if you purchase more than $10, is free – how can you beat that? You cannot. Fin.

Sour Cream Cheesecake

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Sour Cream Cheese Cake

This was super easy cheesecake. Really light, not too sweet, and with a great flavor. I still love the Three Cities of Spain, but for a quick easy recipe where you typically have everything on hand, this is kind of hard to beat. Went over well at home (not too sweet) and at work (wow – real cheese cake!) See notes below.

1 9″ shortbread crust (see notes)
2 – 8 ozs bars cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Cream together cream cheese and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Add vanilla and sour cream.

Bake for 60 – 70 minutes or until cake jiggles across the top when shaken. Run a knife around the outside edge (plastic knives are really helpful here to not mess up your pans), but leave the cake in the pan. Let cool on counter, then place in the refrigerator. Remove from pan when completely chilled.

Notes: I didn’t use a shortbread crust. I used the graham cracker crust from the Three Cities of Spain cheesecake recipe. And since works for my favorite cheesecake it worked for this one too.

Here are those details:
5 ozs (1 sleeve) graham crackers, ground – or vanilla wafers or animal crackers
5 Tbs unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt

Mix together and press into bottom of 9 inch springform pan. Easy and good.

 

2015 Butter Usage (by month – February)

16 February 2015 – 12 Tbs – Pecan Butterscotch Cookies

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Pecan Butterscotch Cookie

20 February 2015 – 12 Tbs – Chocolate Chip Cookies (these will appear in March – round two)

20 February 2015 – 2 Tbs – Blue Cheese Walnut Coins

28 February 2015 – 16 Tbs – Lemon Sugar Cookies

Sad wanky bit of butter in February – at least it seems that way to me. That’s all? Really?

42 Tbs = 5 1/4 sticks = 1.31 pounds

Will work harder in March.