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25 March 2011

Cinnamon Swirl Bread

The trick to making a beautiful cinnamon swirl bread is mixing in the cinnamon/sugar well enough that it won't become too gooey and the bread can still rise evenly and effectively (because sugar slows down yeast growth) and yet keeping distinct swirls of the stuff so that you can tell what it is and that it should be delicious. It is really a difficult balance.

19 March 2011

Awesome French Toast

Older Sister made this Really Awesome French Toast that is like the breakfast that she had at this place once on a road trip. You should have eaten breakfast with us this morning. This was made with challah bread from Crumb Brothers Bakery in Logan which is part of why it is so great, the other thing that makes it Really Awesome is the toasted coconut. So good!

To toast coconut, spread out regular sweetened coconut flakes on a baking sheet in a thin layer. Toast in a 350 oven for 5-10 minutes, stirring and flipping with a spatula every couple of minutes until it is nice and crisp and lightly browned. Then sprinkle it all over your breakfast.

14 March 2011

Quinoa Pilaf

Quinoa is a nice nutritious, protein-rich seed from Peru that is super popular recently. My dad was obsessed with finding it for a while (before it became the new popular super-grain), because he had it in Peru years ago and wanted to try it again. I am always trying to expand my horizons, trying new foods, so when quinoa became easier to find in regular grocery stores, I wanted to experiment with it. It is mostly bland, except for a bitter substance coating the outside, so it needs to be rinsed really well (until the rinse water is clear) and cooked with lots of other tasty things to be very delicious. You can find both red and white quinoa, there isn't really any flavor difference, so here I used red just for looks. This recipe is the only way so far that I can get Lovemuffin to eat quinoa.

quinoa pilaf with celery, red bell peppers and carrots

Quinoa Pilaf
Saute 1-2 cups of the vegetables of your choice, such as onions, celery, carrots, peppers, mushrooms and squash in a large skillet with plenty of oil, until they are becoming tender. Add a lot of minced garlic and any other spices that will go with the vegetables you chose, let them fry in the oil until they become aromatic.
Add about 1 cup of well-rinsed quinoa, stir it up and let it get coated with oil and spices and the vegetables are distributed throughout, then add 2 cups of water or vegetable stock. Cover, bring to a boil, turn heat down and let it simmer until the water is all gone, and the quinoa seeds are soft. Add salt and pepper and maybe more olive oil to taste, then serve.

12 March 2011

Buckwheat Crepes

In Russian these are called blini (блыли) which is also a mild curse word, because you know how when you make crepes or pancakes, the first one off the griddle usually doesn't work right, so you say "блын!" like you would say "darn it!"
filled with mushrooms spinach and feta cheese

Buckwheat has an interesting flavor, not interesting in a bad way,  just different than whole wheat flour. It is still very mild, though. And it has a strange color to it, especially when mixed into the batter. I would recommend trying it for a nice change of pace from regular wheat things. It is nice to get some more variety when it comes to the grains we eat.

note the strange color of the batter - it's supposed to look like this

I think you can just substitute buckwheat flour for all-purpose flour in your favorite crepe recipe. But I noticed that the batter was very thick after resting, so I added about 1/2 cup more water. I used a 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour, I thought they would need a little of the gluten to help them hold together, but now I think they will hold together just fine with just the eggs, they would be a little more delicate, but still manageable. So theoretically they can be gluten-free and I think you could also use just water, no milk and make them dairy-free too. But I have not tested either theory yet. ** see edit below **

Buckwheat Crepes (adapted from Mark Bittman's "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian) 
1 c. buckwheat flour
1/4 c. all-purpose flour (optional)
1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 c. water (approximately)
pinch of salt
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. melted butter, cooled

Blend everything together really well. Let rest for at least an hour or overnight. Add more water if the mixture thickens too much. Heat up a crepe pan or your favorite pancake griddle to medium hight heat (you'll probably need to turn it down a little after the first 4 or 5) and pour on a little less then 1/4 cup of the batter (depending on your griddle size) turning the pan as you go to coat the whole surface with batter before it sets up too much. Let it cook for a minute or two - the top will be dry and the edges will start loosening and curling up - then flip it over and let the top cook for another 30 seconds or minute. Flip it onto a plate and repeat the process with more batter. Fill the crepes with your favorite savory filling and either eat as you go, or put them in a pan in the oven on low heat until they are all assembled. We ate some leftovers the next day with scrambled eggs. I think that these would be good as a dessert crepe with something fruity, but we have not tried that yet either. ** see edit below **
cooking the second side of the crepe

** edit ** I made these again with just buckwheat flour (1 c.), eggs (2), water (2 c.) and salt (pinch) and they worked great. So they can be gluten and dairy free, I even forgot the butter. And they were delicious with both apricot jam and Nutella as dessert-y crepes.

07 March 2011

Chocolate Cinnamon Cake: The Recipe

We have officially received permission to put up the recipe for the cinnamon brownies. Lovemuffin's coworker was very amused to see that his nickname here is Lovemuffin, that probably helped, so thanks a bunch! A couple things to be aware of, you can cut the recipe in half and use an 8 x 8 inch pan instead, if you are watching your waistline, like I said, you will probably eat these really really fast. Also, start making the icing when the cake only has a couple minutes left on the timer, because the icing should be poured over the cake pretty much right out of the oven. Usually you don't do this with cakes, because the icing just melts into the cake, but this one somehow just turns the cake extra rich and fudge-like and it is super good. So don't skip the icing. I think this would be a great recipe to modify, add some chili and anise and other Mexican spice flavors and make it a chili chocolate cake. It is so great like this though, I probably won't experiment with it just yet.

Chocolate Cinnamon Cake
Mix together in a large bowl:
2 cups flour
2 cups sugar
4 Tbsp. cinnamon

In a saucepan, bring to a boil:
1 cup butter
4 Tbsp. cocoa
1 cup water

While that is heating up, mix together in another small bowl:
2 eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking soda

Pour the hot chocolate mixture over the flour/sugar mixture and beat together. Add the egg and yogurt mixture and beat well again. Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan and bake in a preheated 375 oven for 30 -35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Icing: (don't forget it!)
Bring to a boil in a saucepan (you can even use the same one from the cake batter without washing):
1/2 cup butter
1/3 cup milk
4 Tbsp cocoa powder

Remove from heat and mix in:
4 cups powdered sugar (1 box)
2 Tbsp cinnamon

Pour the warm icing over the warm cake within a couple minutes of taking it out of the oven, let cool as long as you can stand to wait, then eat it.

06 March 2011

A French Dessert

I get to come and visit the Motherdear and other family members for a bit, and so last night we all got together and ate lots of lasagna and then I made a dessert for everyone that I learned about in France a few years ago. You may remember a previous post about pear and chocolate tarts, and having this dessert in France was what originally made me aware that pears and chocolate are really really good together. Here's what it looks like:
Pears and ice cream with chocolate sauce
You need a good quality vanilla ice cream, put pear slices on it and top it with chocolate sauce or just melted semi-sweet chocolate chips. If you use chocolate sauce it will stay pliable and will be easier to eat and you'll be able to taste the chocolate more. Plain melted chocolate will harden immediately on the ice cream and you won't get the full flavor effect because of the chocolate being so cold and hard, but it will still be pretty good. Sister-In-Law had her's with cinnamon instead of chocolate and said that was very good together too. It is nice to use fresh pears, but they should be very ripe and smooth and not hard and crunchy and gritty. These pears were a little bit hard and gritty. Little Brother suggested that we warm them up and Older Sister suggested that we cook them with brown sugar so that they would be soft and even more delicious. That got me thinking, you could probably sprinkle pear halves with sugar and maybe cinnamon and cook them on the grill and immediately serve them in this manner and that would be pretty heavenly. Here is all of us (except me) together eating and being silly. Good times.
enjoying each others company and dessert
There are a few interesting things to note in this picture. First: isn't that table nice? Little Brother (on the left) made it all by himself in woodshop class in high school. I want one too! And we are all in the house that he and his wife just bought - isn't that great? Second: there is a green package sitting by Motherdear, which used to contain seaweed. Perhaps someday I will tell you about the awesomeness of seaweed and something you can do with it so that people will eat it without being weirded out. Third: there is this girl sitting by Older Brother who was very nice and we all liked her very much and it was very cool to get to hang out with her. We even saw them holding hands, so maybe we'll get to see more of her in the future.