Monday, June 28, 2010

Strawberry Lemonade

Rating: 5 stars!
Prep time: Easy

It's that time of summer when I find myself craving cold, fruity drinks all day long. Tonight I came up with this delicious creation to assuage that thirst, and it was perfect! I will definitely be making it again. Also, if I've calculated it correctly, it's only got a little over 7 grams of sugar per cup. Then again, I never said I was good at math....

1 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup finely chopped or pureed strawberries (I used frozen strawberries and just put them in the blender while still frozen to chop them up)
1/2 cup lemon juice
5 cups water

In small saucepan, combine sugar, water, and strawberries. Heat until boiling; reduce heat and simmer for three or four minutes. Cover and let stand in refrigerator for about 15 minutes. In pitcher, combine water and lemon juice. Add strawberry syrup and stir; serve over ice (if you serve the lemonade right away, it will still be warm from the syrup, so don't skimp on the ice!). Enjoy. I also would love to try this with blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc... the options are endless!

Chicken Parmesan

Rating: 5 stars
Prep time: Easy

Uncooked chicken breasts, cubed
Bread crumbs
Italian seasoning
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in skillet. Mix breadcrumbs (about 1/3 cup) with about 1 T italian seasoning. Toss chicken breasts with breadcrumbs and fry in skillet until lightly browned on each side. Transfer browned chicken into casserole dish; cover with foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes. Uncover and sprinkle with parmesan cheese; bake for another 10 minutes. Serve with tomato sauce, or if you discover you have no tomato sauce halfway through cooking your meal (like I did), with lemon dressing (mince one clove garlic and add to 2 T olive oil; heat in microwave for 1-2 minutes; stir in 2 T lemon juice). Serve over pasta; top with parmesan cheese.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Flour Tortillas

Rating: 5 stars
Prep time: Medium... at least compared to the tortillas you pull out of a bag!

Growing up, I LOVED it when my mom made fresh flour tortillas. Fresh flour (I can't believe I initially spelled that "flower"! yikes!) tortillas + crock-pot cooked pinto beans was my idea of heaven. These tortillas have so much more flavor than tortillas from a bag! Now, we make them once every week or two. In this particular picture I used 1/2 wheat 1/2 white flour, but I sometimes do all white flour—they are both good in different ways.

4 cups flour
2 t. salt
1/2 t. baking powder (err on the side of too little or you will end up with puffy flatbread instead of tortillas)
1/2 cup shortening or butter
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups hot water

Heat pan or griddle to about 325 (do not grease). In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, and baking powder. With pastry blender, cut in shortening or butter (tip: if you are using refrigerated butter, slice before adding to flour mixture for easier blending). When shortening/butter is mostly blended, add water gradually (I usually start with 1 cup, mix, and then add the water about 1/4 cup at a time after that) until dough is moist and holds together without being sticky. Knead with hands for a minute, then divide into balls a little bigger than a golf ball. On VERY VERY lightly floured surface, roll balls as flat as possible and transfer immediately to hot griddle or pan (otherwise they will puff up). Cook a few minutes on each side, until tortilla is just beginning to have golden-brown spots but still flexible. Fill with your normal taco filling.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Six (or five!)-seed Soda Bread

Rating: 5 stars for heartiness and great for soup!
Prep time: Easy

This, paired with Panera soup, was my lunch today. It's definitely denser and heartier than a yeast-risen bread, but oh my goodness, was it good!!! It was absolutely divine paired with the broccoli cheese soup. I might never be able to serve the two dishes apart again! Not to mention, it was so EASY and so GORGEOUS!

2 1/2 tablespoons each sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, poppy, and flax seeds (I actually had all of these on hand)
1 t. fennel seeds (I didn't have these, so I just left them out—you really can customize this seed list to be whatever you prefer, or have on hand, though I thought the 5 I used were perfect)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups spelt or wheat flour (for those of us who don't have spelt flour on hand!)
2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 3/4 cup buttermilk, plus a little more for brushing (I didn't have buttermilk so I used a buttermilk substitute, 1 cup milk to 1 T lemon juice)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees (really, let it preheat all the way before you start making the dough—the dough makes up very fast and you want your oven to be all the way hot when it goes in). Place a rack in the center of the oven. Mix all seeds together in a bowl; set aside.

In larger bowl, combine flours, baking soda, and salt. Mix in all but 2 tablespoons of seeds. Create a well in the center of flour mixture and pour in 1 3/4 cup buttermilk (or substitute). Mix until just combined (but not too sticky), then turn onto a lightly-floured surface and knead about one minute (add a little flour at this point if necessary) or until mixture makes a nice bread dough. You don't want to knead too long, as the bread should go into the oven ASAP. Lightly flour a cookie sheet OR line with parchment paper. Shape dough into a round loaf and place on cookie sheet; with serrated knife, mark deep X in top of loaf. Brush with remaining buttermilk and sprinkle with remaining seeds. (Next time, I'd mix some egg yolk in with the buttermilk as some of the seeds fell off after baking—although I'm actually pleasantly surprised by how well the buttermilk did hold them on.) Bake for 35-40 minutes or until bread is a rich golden brown. Enjoy! Yields one loaf.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Fresh Strawberry Tarts/Pie

Rating: 5 stars
Prep time: Easy-medium

My mom always makes fresh strawberry pie in the spring, when NC strawberries are abundant, delicious, and cheap. I was just dying for some strawberry pie this spring, but we just didn't have enough in the budget for the 4 pounds of strawberries it would take—plus, two people don't exactly need a whole pie to themselves. Instead, we created these darling strawberry tarts. I won't tell you how many of these we've eaten in the past week....

For those more interested in the pie, I've put the pie measurements in parentheses. The tart recipe is intended to yield one dozen tarts, but it totally depends on how thinly you roll your pie crust—the first time I didn't roll it out very thinly, and we only ended up with 7 or 8 tarts.

1 9-inch pie crust (I used this recipe)
1/2 cup mashed or pureed strawberries (1 cup)
1/2 cup sugar (1 cup)
1 1/2 t. cornstarch (1 T)
1/4 cup water (1/2 cup)
1 oz cream cheese (3 oz)
1/4-1/3 t. sugar (1 t.)
1/2 T milk (1-2 T)
1 lb chopped strawberries (app. 4 lb strawberries, whole), less the amount you used for the puree
Whipped cream (I definitely recommend using real, freshly-whipped cream! Then again, I recommend that for just about anything) for topping

For tarts: Heat oven to 375. Roll pie crust as thin as possible (really, as thin as you can get it without it falling apart on you). Punch circles in pie crust with the biggest cup or other circle you can find—we used a 32oz hospital mug, which I think is about 5 inches in diameter. Gently stretch circles with your fingers, and place into cups of muffin tin. The edges of the crust should be at least as tall as or taller than the edges of your muffin tin. Prick crust with fork (including sides) and bake for 8-12 minutes or until very lightly golden. Once crusts are done baking, gently remove from muffin tins and let cool on a plate. While crusts are baking, mix sugar and cornstarch together. Fold in pureed strawberries and combine. Add water; heat until mixture has boiled for 1 minute (on the stove or in the microwave, either works—if you heat it on the stove, be sure to stir regularly). Let cool. Combine cream cheese, sugar, and milk. Once crusts are cooled, spoon a dollop of the cream cheese mixture into the bottom of each crust. Spoon a few of the chopped strawberries into crust (don't overdo it—these will fill up fast!), using the spoon to pack them in if necessary. Gently spoon or pour glaze over the strawberries. Top with another layer of chopped strawberries. Add a dollop of whipped cream, and enjoy! They can be eaten right away (and trust me, we did), but the next-day leftovers are even better.

For pie: Heat oven to 375. Roll out pie crust and place in pie dish. Prick bottom and sides with fork and bake for 8 minutes (or until done). While crust is cooking, mix sugar and cornstarch. Fold in pureed strawberries and combine. Add water; heat until mixture has boiled for 1 minute. Let cool. Combine cream cheese, sugar, and milk. Spread over bottom of (cooled) pie crust (if you don't let it cool a little, it will melt the cream cheese... ask me how I know!). Spread one layer of strawberries, sliced in half, over bottom of pie (cut sides up). Layer glaze over strawberries. Continue to layer cut strawberries and glaze until pie crust is full; top with whole berries. Serve with whipped cream.