Monday, January 28, 2008

Chewy coconut cookies

1 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup oil
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 3/4 cups flaked coconut (divided)

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

In a large bowl, combine oil, brown sugar, and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Gradually blend in the flour mixture, then mix in 1 1/2 cups coconut.

Gently roll the dough into balls, each about the size of quarter. Roll the dough balls in the remaining coconut to coat lightly.

Place cookies on a baking sheet about 3 inches apart. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven at 350 degrees, or until lightly toasted.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Nana's gumbo...

I guess to be accurate this isn't really her recipe. But she's the one who inspired me to try making it. I've never had Nana's gumbo (and she's actually not my Nana) but she is a great cook and is from Louisiana. Her family raves about her gumbo, so I tried to extract a recipe from her. This is what I got:

"Make your roux. Let it cook most of the day - after a while it'll get to where it won't burn. Add your chicken. That's pretty much it."

While I'm sure some Cajun cooks would have done just fine with that, I needed a good hour on the internet researching the various school of thought on how to make the best roux, whether to even use a roux or if you should take the file powder or okra route, and all the bijillion variations to put and not put in your gumbo. Basically, gumbo consists strong stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener (I chose roux), and the vegetable "holy trinity" of celery, bell peppers and onion. Gumbo is traditionally served over rice, but I like my rice mixed in, more like a stew.

This recipe below is what I came up with. Let the bowls serve as proof. Nana's gumbo is pretty darn good...even if it did take me about eight hours to make.

Making the stock the day before

Nana'a gumbo
Makes 8-10 servings

Roux (1/2 cup flour + 1/2 cup oil)
1 lg chicken, cooked and pulled off bone
2 smoked sausages, sliced
2 chopped onions
1 chopped green pepper
3 ribs celery, chopped
5 cups warm chicken stock
1 1/2 cups white rice
Creole seasoning
Bay leaf

Roux, aka Cajun napalm. Now that's the tricky part. I'll direct you to some good sites for reading up on it. Photos of my roux-making are below.

Gumbo City's roux
Gumbo du Monde - scroll down to 'For the roux'
How to make roux

Flour and oil on med-high heat after a few minutes.
10 minutes
25 minutes
45 minutes
About an hour

Now that your roux is made, the hard part is over!

While the roux is still hot, sauté the onions, bell pepper and celery until soft and fragrant. Should start smelling really good right about now. Add 1/2 cup warmed chicken stock and stir until well-mixed. Keep adding slowly by 1/2cups until the roux is the consistency of thin pudding.

Carefully pour the roux mixture into a large saucepan and stir in remaining stock. Add the chicken and sausage. Add the bay leaves and Creole seasoning (start with 1 tsp) to taste and stir. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for about 45 minutes.

Serve over hot rice.

Upside-down apple spice cake

1 3/4 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 tsp almond flavoring (opt)
2 apples, sliced thinly
1 Tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a second bowl, mix the sugar and oil well. Beat in the eggs, followed by milk, vanilla and flavoring.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just mixed.

Melt the butter in a round cake pan. Sprinkle evenly with sugar and cinnamon. Layer apples on top of the sugar. Pour batter over apples.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean. Let the cake sit 5 minutes, then flip onto a plate. Serve warm.

Herb roasted pork loin

A very simple recipe for a delicious, flexible roast. Serve with roasted veggies and rosemary green beans, or slice for sandwiches. Plan on one pound for three people.

1 pork loin, tied in twine
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Seasoning mixture

Seasoning mixture:
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp rosemary
1/4 tsp salt

Heat a large frying pan over high heat. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rub the roast with a olive oil. Sprinkle with seasoning mixture untill well-covered on all sides.

Put the roast in the heated pan. Cook for 30-45 seconds on each side, or until the meat on the outside changes color from pink to white.

Place the roast in a baking dish and put in the oven. Bake until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let sit 15 minutes. This will allow the roast to keep cooking a bit, but also reabsorb the juices. Cut off the twine before serving.

Loaded apple muffins

Bowl 1:
1 3/4 cups flour
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Bowl 2:
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

2 large apples, chopped

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl (A). In a second bowl, mix the sugar and oil well. Beat in the eggs, followed by milk and vanilla.

Stir the dry ingredients into the wet until just mixed. Add apples, mixing in with a few strokes.

Spoon the batter (it will be thick) into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees until a knife inserted in center comes out clean.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Orange spice bicotti

Crunchy, twice-baked Italian cookies perfect for dipping in coffee, tea, hot chocolate or milk. They don't take long to make and store well.

1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1 tsp almond extract
1 TBSP melted butter
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
pinch ground cloves
2 tsp grated orange zest

In a bowl mix together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, spices). In a second bowl the sugar, egg, extract, zest and butter. Once completely blended, stir in dry ingredients. Stir until completely mixed in. The dough will be stiff and heavy.

Shape the dough into a wide, flat loaf about 1/2 inch tall. Place on a baking stone or nonstick cookie sheet. Bake in preheated oven at 375 degrees for 20 minute or until the top is browned and begins to crack.

Remove from oven and let cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes.

Transfer loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut into slices 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal. Arrange evenly on the baking sheet or stone. Bake 10 minutes, turn slices over, and bake another 10 minutes or until firm to the touch.

Let the biscotti dunking begin!

(If there are any left, let cool completely before storing in an airtight container.)