Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

May you all have a truly blessed Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year.

Friday, December 10, 2010

I'm sure it is low fat and almost calorie free

Let's be honest. I have done pretty much nothing while I have been on short-term-worker's-comp-disability. Which is what I was suppose to be doing to give my arms time to rest. It hasn't worked out so well however since I have as much pain as I had on my last day of work. I had a lovely test today which basically felt like for the first half I was repeatedly touching my hand to the metal portion of a plug and then leaving it there while inserting it into the socket. The second half of the test had the doctor practicing human voodoo doll maneuvers on the arms. I told him that he really knew how to show a lady a good time-he laughed so hard he put the probe down.

So what have I been doing, really with all this time off? Facebook and Twitter and Stumble. I bring them all up in the morning and leave them up all day long. While perusing my friends on FB, one of my high school classmates who now lives out in Seattle Washington (and just had another baby-bless her heart) and had posted she had just picked up a Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate at Starbucks. A friend of hers replied with a blogpost about making it at home. While I didn't exactly have the ingredients for it, I made one up that worked pretty darn well with what I had in my pantry and fridge.

I started by warming up 3 TBSP of Stonewall Kitchen's Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel sauce in the microwave. I then warmed up a cup of water and stirred in several teaspoons of International Foods Vanilla Bean Latte mix. I poured about 2 TBSP of the chocolate down the sides of my coffee mug, then poured the coffee in. I topped it with a BIG dollop of aerosol whipped cream then drizzled the last of the warmed chocolate sauce over the top.

Oh yeah. It was sublime while watching the snow fall and watching the cars go by.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Caramels, the new way

My name is Tami and I'm addicted to caramel. It is true. I love it more than I can express in words. I buy one tart apple to go with the tub of Marzetti apple dip in the grocery store, but then eat most of it with a spoon. I will eat ice cream only when the ratio is 1 part ice cream and 5 parts hot caramel. I'm surprised that when they take blood, caramel doesn't come out.

I had posted here I think last winter the caramel recipe I always used. When they turned out, they were awesome. When they didn't it cost about $6 bucks and caused some curse words.

I attempted two batches for our annual Holiday Bazaar at church. Both attempts failed and I was in so much pain from all the stirring, I yelled rather loudly in my kitchen "I AM DONE WITH CARAMELS".

Then I got my December issue of Food Network Magazine, and on the cover was a little picture of Ina Garten and a caption that said "Ina's Salted Caramels". I mumbled under my breath as I turned to the page and read through it. Hey. This may work. No stirring, only swirling of the pan until it was time to add the vanilla. Hmmm, a two step process where the cream mixture is added later. Oooooh, look-the temp to cook it to is 2 degrees less than my old recipe. Shazam! I have all the ingredients in my fridge and pantry. I guess one more try won't kill me.....

Holy Mother of Caramel-they are fantastic! They are darker than my old recipe, but they are soft and chewy and buttery. And I can't have any until Tuesday night at 5. My daughter was my taste tester-still in the process of 'prepping for the procedure'. And then she bakes brownies today too. Good thing I love her or her head would be wearing the brownies. Any-whoooo...

Ina~I bow down to your greatness. I have never doubted you before, and I find no indication that I would in the future.
Ina's Salted Caramels (Food Network mag and her new cookbook)
vegetable oil
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tsp fine fleur de sel, plus more for sprinkling
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Have all your ingredients measured out and waiting to go-mis en place is very important. Don't ask how I know...
Line an 8-inch square pan with parchment paper, allowing it to drape over 2 sides. Brush the paper lightly with the oil.
In a deep saucepan (her dimensions were 6 wide, 4-1/2 deep. Mine was 7-1/2 wide, and a bit deeper), combine the 1/4 cup water, the sugar and corn syrup and bring to boil over medium high heat until a warm golden color. Don't stir, just swirl pan occasionally. Meanwhile, in a small sauce pan, combine the cream, butter and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Turn off heat and set aside. When the sugar mixture is a nice golden color, turn off heat and slowly add the cream mixture. Be careful as the it will bubble up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon then turn heat back on to medium low and place candy thermometer in pan and clip to side. Cook until it registers 248 degrees. In her instructions it says about 10 minutes. I, however, do not have a commercial grade range and I live in the country so propane gas stoves do not put out BTU's like natural gas stoves, so mine took about 22 minutes. When candy reaches 248 degrees, turn off heat and pour mixture into prepared pan carefully as mixture is HOT. Place the pan in the fridge to cool and firm up.
When the caramels are cooled and firm, remove from fridge and remove the caramel from the pan using the overhanging parchment paper as handles. Cut the square in half. Roll each half up jelly-roll style starting with the long edge. Sprinkle with more fleur del sel, trim edges and cut each roll into 8 equal pieces. Cut each log in half, then cut those two halves in half, and then repeat. You will have 16 pieces. Wrap each piece in waxed paper and store in fridge.
Tasting notes: I didn't sprinkle with the salt as not everyone here enjoys salt on their treats. I also cut each log into 16 pieces as they were L-A-R-G-E pieces.
They were divine-so I was told. This will be my go-to recipe from now on.
Say Ina, can you teach me some secrets for jelly-roll cakes........

Saturday, December 4, 2010

French Toast and a snowy night

Who blogs about French toast, right?

I guess I am. I have to follow a low fiber diet for three days so I can go have the big "C" next week. I know, you are all jealous. There wasn't a whole lot on the list to choose from that I like, other than pancakes, French toast, saltines, cooked potatoes, Jello, pudding and carrots. Really-I don't like yogurt, or wax beans or spinach (unless it is in dip form). I am limited.
I decided to jazz up the regular ingredients a little just because.

Jazzy French Toast (for lack of a better title)
4 slices Texas Toast
2 eggs
about 1/4 whipping cream (I eyeballed it)
1 TBSP real maple syrup
2 TBSP light brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Beat eggs lightly; stir in whipping cream and beat well. Add rest of ingredients and stir to combine. Soak each slice of bread for a good 30 seconds on each side so it can soak in. Fry up on your griddle. Top with you choice of toppings-I always pick butter and syrup.
Enjoy it while watching it snow, and snow, and snow some more.
This is what it looked like this morning when I got up. Between 10 to 12 inches in the yard.

And Tofu thought she would enjoy some French Toast too. I broke her little heart and didn't let her have any-she got spaghetti noodles on Thursday.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Guinness Stew

Several years ago, I spent three days in downtown Minneapolis for a banking class. While it was work related, it was also a mini-vacation for Mom! I had a big bed all to myself. I could watch whatever I wanted on TV. I got to sample different restaurants for dinner.

On my last day, I stopped back at a restaurant that my co-worker and I had stopped at for cocktails after our first day of classes. It was an Irish pub that had a great roof-top terrace and lawn bowling square. We sipped cocktails while watching people in their business attire juggle pints of Guinness and the required lawn ball. I really have no idea what they are actually called-we just had fun watching.

On this last day, I sat outside in front of the restaurant on a small patio having a late lunch before heading home. I chose the Guinness Beef Stew. I am not a fan of Guinness for drinking, as I prefer lighter beers to drink, but that stew was out of this world! Chunks of beef, bright orange carrot rounds, and small Irish potatoes swimming together in the most flavorful broth I had ever tasted.

The menu didn't give away much on what was in it, other than the main ingredients you could see. I saw a recipe several years ago that was for a different type of stew, but used the process for the beef and it really made it terrific.

Guinness Beef Stew

4 strips of bacon
1 TBSP oil
2 pounds beef stew meat (I sometimes use a nice sirloin cut up)
1/2 of a large onion, diced
1-2 TBSP flour
1 bottle of Guinness beer **
1 TBSP Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup red wine
2 cups beef stock
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 tsp Balsamic vinegar
2 tsp Old World seasoning (Penzeys-it has bay leaf, rosemary, dill, thyme, savory, etc)
salt and pepper, to taste
10 small Irish or red potatoes, cooked

In a Dutch oven heat the oil. Fry the bacon to lightly crisp and remove from pot. In the bacon renderings and oil, fry the stew meat that has been blotted dry to sear the outside. Do this in at least two batches so as not to crowd the beef. Remove beef to a plate or bowl. Saute onions in remaining dripping for about 4 to 5 minutes, being careful to not let them burn or get too much color. Stir flour into the onion mixture and stir for 2 minutes to get a nice roux. Pour a small amount of beer into pan to deglaze and help the roux not to burn. Return the stew meat to the pan and use a scissors to snip the bacon into bite size pieces right into the pot. Stir the rest of the ingredients in, except the potatoes. Simmer over low heat for 1-1/2 hours. Stir the cooked potatoes into the stew and simmer for another hour.

Serve with the Beer Bread from last post.

**Notes: I had bought a large single bottle of beer from the liquor store since I'm not a fan of drinking the Guinness. I cannot remember the exact size, but around 24 to 26 ounces. I poured 12 ounces of it into a glass measure and let sit to come to room temperature for the bread. The balance I used for the stew.

I also have been trying to use up my canned goods, so I used two cans of small Irish potatoes for the fresh cooked ones. The only thing I will do different if I use canned spuds again is to fry them in a little oil and beer to put a little color on them.

The bacon: I had cooked up a pound the night before and saved the renderings in a glass cup. I slowly melted that with just a small amount of oil since the recipe I found for the different meat stew only used the renderings from the four slices of bacon, and I had about double that from the pound of bacon.