Monday, January 29, 2007

A Foodie's shame

You really can't classify my post today as "cooking." I was stressed for a super fast and easy dessert to make to take to a church function. I have a well know reputation for my cooking at my church so I had to tread very carefully with this one. Besides being fast my other requirement was that it had to be something that already had all of the ingredients for. What I came up with was something that the kids loved and was not meant to rival the lovely cakes and pies that some of my usual competition brought. My only defense is that at least it was not store bought.
This is a twist on Rice Crispy Treats. Every time I make Rice Crispy treats I think of the commercial they had for them several years ago. The mom is in the Kitchen behind closed doors and the family is on the other side imploring "Are they done yet?" Cut back to mom who is reading a Romance Novel,"NOT YET! These things take time!" Eventually Mom picks up the plate of rice crispy treats, toussles her hair and flicks some flour on her face. Sighs, puts on a fatigued expression and delivers them to the cheers and accolades of her loving family. I LOVE that commercial!

This is where I reveal on of my guilty pleasures. I LOVE FRUITY PEBBLES! Growing up we did not keep sugared ceareals in our house, it was Cherrios (only the plain kind back then) or Rasin bran.When I got married (at not yet 18) I ALWAYS bought "the good stuff" ! Yes ,I know I talk about eggs bendedict and Feta cheese omlettes. I spend hours pouring over cookbooks and websites and debate the virtures of fresh herbs over dried. I have matured now. ....I don't eat sugared cereal for breakfast, now it is a late night snack!!!!!

ANYWAY, I have prattled on for long enough. I hope that no one finds this recipe TOO hard!

Fruity Pebbles Treats

3Tbs Butter
5 cups Fruit Flavored Rice cereal
1- 7oz jar Marshmellow cream

In a large bowl melt butter add Marshmellow cream and microwave just long enough to make stirring easy. Add Cereal and mix well making sure all cereal is well coated. Place in 9x13 pan press down very firmly with rubber spatula. Cool for 10-15 mins till bars are firm. Cut into squares. Enjoy your kids praises!!

Note: Coco Crispys are also pretty yummy!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

New Toys

They say that the only difference in Men and boys is the price and size of their toys. I am not a man but I like toys too! OK, get your mind out of the gutter I am not talking about that kind of toys! Mine don't generally come with wheels, but there are some on my wish list that are pretty pricey. Like a new kitchen, island stove with grill top and convection oven. One of those hidden refrigerators that have different "zones" Granite counters and lots of other things I see on "Kitchen Trends" and " I Want that" Unfortunately unless I hit the lottery those are pretty much just pipe dreams.
But I did get some new toys for Christmas. One was a food processor and another was a Creme brulee set with a torch. I decided to play with my new toys today and used them to make dinner.

Pork Tenderloin with Bourbon Plum sauce
Garlic-Truffle Smashed Potatoes
Steamed Veggies
Orange-Ginger Creme Brulee

Would you like to join me for Dinner?

Roasted Pork with Bourbon Plum Sauce

15 dried plums
1 1/2 cups beef broth
1 pork tenderloin roast
1/2 cup Dijon Mustard
2/3 cup brown sugar
1TBS brown sugar
1/3 cup bourbon
1 tsp dried sage
1 1/2 tsp dried thyme
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a small saucepan bring broth to a simmer and drop in plums let stand for aprox 30 mins. Trim roast if necessary, Rinse and Pat dry. Spread mustard all over roast then roll in brown sugar till well coated. Heat Oil in Dutch Oven. Brown Pork on all sides over medium heat. Strain off 1/2 cup of liquid from prunes and add to pan. Bring to a boil. Cover pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 mins.
Remove from Oven and turn Roast over. Sprinkle sage and thyme over roast, Salt and Pepper to taste. Place Plums around roast. Return to oven and bake uncovered aprox 20 mins or until meat thermometer reaches 155 degrees.
Remove from oven. Place roast on platter and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 15-20 mins. Place prunes and liquid in food processor and Puree. Slice Roast on diagonal and spoon puree over top of roast.

I found a recipe for Low fat Creme brulee and tweaked the flavors to give it a little added interest. Let me tell you the aroma of the ginger, orange and vanilla bean heating in the milk makes you want to stop and drink it right there!

Low- Fat Orange-Ginger Creme Brulee

1/2 cup skim milk
1 Tbs cornstarch
12 oz can fat free evaporated milk
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup fat free half and half
4 egg yolks
1 vanilla bean
Zest of one orange
1tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp Grand Manier (or other orange liqueur)
3 Tbs sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place six 1 cup ramekins or custard cups in a large pan (I used my the bottom of my broiler pan).
In a medium heavy saucepan, combine fat-free milk and cornstarch. Mix until smooth. Add sugar and evaporated fat-free milk and stir until combined. Add grated ginger. Split vanilla bean down middle and add to mixture. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat.Take out vanilla bean
In a small bowl, combine fat-free half & half with the egg yolks. Beat lightly. Add a small amount of the hot milk into the egg mixture while stirring. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan. Add Grand Manier. Stir to mix.
Divide mixture into the 6 ramekins. Place pan with ramekins on shelf in oven. Pour hot water into the large pan to make a water bath for the custard. Filling until water is approx 1/2 way up ramekin. . Bake for 30 minutes or until custard is set. Remove ramekins from water bath. Refrigerate several hours or until completely cold.

When ready to serve, sprinkle 1 - 2 teaspoons of sugar on top of each ramekin. Using a small butane-fuel torch, heat sugar until it caramelizes and turns light brown. If you do not have torch place ramekins under broiler for a few mins watching carefully that sugar does not burn

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned.

I have a confession to make. I don't make my own spaghetti sauce. That's right, I buy Jar sauce (Prego is my favorite) and then I add onions and peppers and spices to Doctor it up. Personally I think it is pretty good. My kids never complain in fact my son would just as soon I did not add the onions and peppers to it.
I have TRIED to make it several times before and the results were certainly acceptable. But the truth is, I just did not feel it was SO much better than the Jar sauce to make it worth my time.

So today while I was making my usual rounds on the food blogs I keep up with, One site had spaghetti sauce. It gave the recipe and a link to another blog site with a Sauce recipe. Certain things about each of them sounded yummy. I started thinking. "HMMM, maybe I should give it one more try.
NO, each time I start out with high expectations and am always disappointed!"
But I kept looking at more recipes and persuaded myself to take the leap of faith one more time.
Now most sauces have the same basic ingredients but everyone seems to have there own little twist. I probably looked at about a half dozen recipes and took the things from each that I thought sounded good. From my research it seems that one thing that I have not done in the past is cook it long enough. I am very impatient! Today however I am going to try my best!

1 1/2 hrs into sauce making. NOW I remember another reason that I don't make my own sauce. Have I mentioned that I am a messy cook????? What is it about tomato sauce that makes it cover the WHOLE stove top and half the kitchen? But the sauce looks good. It's thick and has lots of texture however. I burned my tongue when I tried to take a taste of it so honestly ...I can't say how good it is at this point.

2 hrs into sauce making. Ok ..hmmm it should cook at least one more hour ...but I COULD cook up a little spaghetti and "test" it while it continues to cook! Yea...cause then I can see if it needs more spices and salt ...YEA ... I NEED to I HAVE to test it!!!

2 1/4 hrs into sauce making. So far so good! I usually don't like my spaghetti sauce without meat but this has enough texture to be good without it. I do know however that in the end I will probably puree it because my son has a thing about textures and ummm VEGETABLES. I think it needs a bit more garlic and Italian seasonings. Perhaps a TOUCH more wine too. I am glad I tested it. By the way, the wine is excellent!

3 hrs Sauce is DONE. Now for the verdict. The sauce is Great! I am really proud of it. It is the best sauce I have ever made! It is sweet and thick and hearty!Has none of the thin flavor of my past attempts.
I am going to be honest though, it's likely that I am going to still use Jar sauce most of the time. Though this IS better. I would say that it is not 3 1/2 hours better than Jar sauce. I WILL make it again though, probably for special occasions. I think that sauce is best made in big batches that you can or freeze. Likely this is only enough sauce for maybe 2 meals in my house. Perhaps THAT is the secret I missed!

Sindy's Special Sauce
2TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup finely chopped Carrots
1 small to med, sweet yellow onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 rib diced celery(with leaves)
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1/4 cup chopped shitake mushrooms (more to taste ..again, picky son)
1/2 cup Red wine (I used a shriaz/merlot blend)
2 Bay leaves
1Tbs dried oregano
28 oz can Diced tomatoes (with juice)
28 oz can pureed Tomatoes
2 Tbs Tomato paste
1TBS Truffle oil (optional)

Heat oil in large heavy skillet. Add carrots, onions and celery. Cook med/high for about 10 mins until tender and beginning to brown. Add garlic and green pepper. Remove and place in large heavy bottomed pot.(a dutch oven works well) Add a little more olive oil to skillet if dry and sautee mushrooms until they give off their water and begin to brown. Add wine to skillet and scrape bottom of pan. Add wine and mushrooms to vegetables. Add remaining ingredients except truffle oil. Bring up to a boil stirring constantly. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for about 3 hours stirring every 10-15 mins. If sauce becomes too thick( starts sounding and looking like a volcano instead of smaller bubbling) add a small amount of water (up to 1/4 cup). When the sauce is done it will be a deeper brownish red. At the end of cooking stir in Truffle oil. This gives the sauce and great earthy flavor !

NOTE:Tune in later for the disaster that follows!!!!!