Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pizza Puffs

I got the idea for these pizza puffs from Cooking With My Kid, where a broccoli version was featured for Meatless Monday. I wasn't feeling the all-veggie vibe, so I made mine with turkey sausage, spinach, and a little bit of pepperoni for zing. I felt pretty virtuous- the whole wheat, spinach, and turkey sausage seem pretty healthy to me!
These yummy puffs seem pretty versatile- I think you could change the kind of cheese and swap out a wide range of fillings. Just keep the basic proportions the same- 3/4 C Cheese and 1 1/2 C total fillings. I think next I'll try breakfast-y ones with sausage, mushrooms, and cheddar.

3/4 C whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Italian seasoning
3/4 C milk
1 egg, beaten
3/4 C mozzarella cheese
3/4 C frozen chopped spinach, thawed under running water and squeezed mostly dry
1/2 C cooked Italian turkey sausage, diced
1/4 C pepperoni, diced

  1. Prepare your ingredients: shred the cheese, dice the sausage & pepperoni, and thaw and squeeze dry the spinach.
  2. Preheat the oven to 375, and grease a set of 24 mini-muffin tins.
  3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, garlic powder, and Italian Seasoning.
  4. In a small bowl, lightly beat the egg. Beat in the milk.
  5. Whisk the milk mixture into the dry mixture.
  6. Stir in the cheese, spinach, sausage, and pepperoni.
  7. Allow the batter to sit for 10 minutes.
  8. Quickly stir the batter once more, then scoop evenly into the greased mini-muffin tins.
  9. Bake at 375 until slightly puffed and golden.
Serve warm, with pizza sauce for dipping. Leftovers keep well in the fridge, freeze well, and reheat nicely in the microwave or toaster oven.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

How NOT to Make Chinese Pork Buns

This post is for those among my friends, like Mindy & Amanda, who have such faith in my cooking skills that they routinely declare, "anything you make is delicious!" I do in fact have kitchen failures, and sometimes they are pretty spectacularly bad.

I love me some Chinese barbecue pork buns, and I buy a package of frozen ones every time I get to visit the mega-Asian-mart grocery store near my friend V's house. But there's no local source, so recently I Googled up a few recipes. The recipes I'd found called for marinating the pork, then oven-roasting it, the shredding it and using it as the base for the bun filling. "Bah!" I thought. "I make pulled-pork barbecue in the slow cooker all the time. I'll just do that." So I started gathering the ingredients for the marinade and putting them in the slow-cooker crock. And right about this time my kitchen was invaded by several friends who had come over to play in the swimming pool and brought dinner with them. Suddenly the kitchen was crowded and full of commotion and all the utensils and measuring spoons were in short supply. Whatever- barbecue is forgiving. I would just eyeball amounts and get this thing thrown together.

I glanced at the screen of my laptop, balanced over on the other side of the kitchen out of the splatter zone, and noticed that all the ingredients seemed to be in 1- and 2-Tablespoon increments. Hoisin sauce went in. Oyster sauce? Didn't have any, so I added extra hoisin. No rice wine, either, so I used a splash of white wine. Then I opened the honey, and found it had solidified in the jar. No room or time to mess with melting it- I tossed in some brown sugar instead. Some ginger, some garlic... now that 5-spice powder I just bought, where did it go? I tossed in a generous capful, stirred it up, and plopped in the sliced-up pork. I clapped the lid on the slow-cooker, turned it to "low" and headed out to join my guests in the pool.

By bedtime, it was smelling rather licorice-y and not much at all like the Chinese barbecue pork buns I've known and loved. I shrugged off my misgivings and went to bed. The next morning, my first waking thought was, "What is that awful smell??!!" Alas, it was coming from the kitchen. Alas, it was my pork. Alas, it was dreadful.

It turns out that all the ingredients went in 1-2 Tablespoon increments EXCEPT the 5-spice powder. I was only supposed to use 1/4 tsp of that. So I'd put in 12 times too much. And apparently there is a reason all the recipes said to oven-roast the pork, not slow-cook it. The anise (licorice-y) flavor of the 5-spice powder was intensified by the long moist cooking while other balancing flavors died away. Plus I had made ill-advised substitutions for several key ingredients. The result was irredeemable. I had to throw the whole potful of pork away and simmer some cinnamon on the stove for an hour to cover the stink. This may be my most inedible concoction ever, right up there with the bitter eggplant parmesan of 2008.

I will try again. I am determined to provide myself an uniterrupted supply of pork buns. But next time I'll use the actual ingredients and measurements in the recipe. Here's hoping.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summertime Strawberry Sorbet (Pops)

Ah, Summer! Here in Maryland that means hiking, swimming, kayaking, chasing fireflies... and day after day of hot, sticky, humid weather that leaves you panting and sweat-soaked after just walking outside to get the mail. The antidote? Strawberry Sorbet Pops. You can make this recipe in your ice-cream maker and get actual sorbet, but I forgot to put the cold part of my machine in the freezer, so my girlfriends and I made pops instead. I think I like the pops better. What's that you say? You don't have retro-fabulous Tupperware Popsicle molds? Keep your eyes peeled at yard sales and thrift stores- they show up often. In the meantime just mold your pops in Dixie Cups with popsicle sticks or straws. Put a little foil over the top and poke your stick through, to hold it up until the sorbet freezes.

1 lb fresh strawberries
3/4 C Sugar (yes, you really need that much. trust me!)
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1tsp real vanilla extract

Rinse the strawberries, remove the stems, and slice them up into a big bowl. Add the sugar, lemon juice, and vanilla and allow to sit for at least an hour, no more than two, until the berries get all juicy and mushy. The fancy cooking word for this is "macerate," which is very fun to say. Then dump the whole mess into your blender or food processor and puree it. Pour the puree into popsicle molds and freeze. Or, churn it into sorbet according to your ice-cream maker's instructions (don't forget to freeze the cold part of your machine the night before, like I did). These pops are delicious, sweet & creamy-textured, perfect for Summer. Enjoy!

(This recipe is slightly adapted from The Perfect Scoop of Strawberry Sorbet on www.yumsugar.com. Mainly we took out the kirsch and added vanilla, increased the lemon juice, and made pops instead of churned sorbet.)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Ginger Apricot Softies

This recipe started out as scones, but after I modified it to fit my friend V's food sensitivities, what we got was a batch of big, soft cookies. They were delicious.

1/4 tsp lemon juice
1/3 C soy milk
1/4 C sugar
1 C flour
2 Tbsp almond meal (can substitute corn meal)
1 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground dried ginger
4 Tbsp melted dairy-free margarine
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 C dried apricots, cut into small bits

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or nonstick foil. In a small bowl, stir the lemon juice into the soy milk and set aside to thicken. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the sugar, flour, almond meal, cream of tartar, baking soda, salt, and ginger. Add the melted margarine to the thickened soy milk mixture and whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir with a large spoon, being careful to scrape the sides and bottom and incorporate everything well. Gently stir in the apricot bits. Scoop the dough out onto the prepared baking sheet to form 12 biscuits and flatten slightly. Bake 15-18 minutes or until the bottom edges are golden brown. Share with friends to prevent eating all 12 by yourself in one sitting.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Make-ahead baked mashed potatoes

This recipe comes from my Aunt Nancy. You can make it with instant mashed potatoes, or make 'em from scratch. Honestly, it tastes creamy, rich, and delicious either way. Just mulitply the recipe to reach the number of servings you need. This is EXCELLENT for big meals like Thanksgiving and Christmas, when you can do the messy peeling and the steamy boiling, draining and mashing days ahead, rather than dealing with it all at the last minute when kitchen space is at a premium.

non-stick cooking spray, plain or butter flavored
6 servings of mashed potatoes, prepared without butter.
4 oz cream cheese
1 egg, beaten
1-2 Tbsp butter, cut into small bits.

Optional additions:
Cheddar or parmesan cheese (mixed in and/or sprinkled on top)
1/2 tsp garlic powder or flakes
1/2 tsp onion powder or flakes
1/2 tsp butter flavoring, or 1 tsp Butter Buds or similar
crumbled bacon (to sprinkle on top)

Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray (1 qt size for a single 6-serving batch). Prepare mashed potatoes by your preferred method, but omit any butter in the recipe. Allow the potatoes to cool somewhat- they should be hot enough to soften the cheese, but not hot enough to cook the egg. Blend in the remaining ingredients, except butter. I often mash the potatoes in my stand mixer when making a large batch, then simply continue adding ingredients. Transfer potato mixture to baking dish, dot with butter, and top with cheese or bacon if desired. Allow to cool completely, then cover tightly and refrigerate up to 3 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375F, uncover dish, and bake 30 minutes. Potatoes should rise slightly in the dish and develop a nice crust on top, but will be fluffy and delicious inside.