Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Greek Taboule Salad

So how's fall treating you?  Fall here is still being bullied by summer who refuses to leave, so soups, stews and chilies are not working for us quite yet.  We're still in cold salad mode.

That's okay though, because I could eat this Greek Taboule Salad every day and be quite content.  The first time I had taboule was several years ago.  I absolutely loved it but have not had it since, so I was excited to see this mix at Wal-Mart the other day.

Taboule (there are several spellings-I am going with the one on the box) is a salad made of bulgar wheat with some fresh veggies, olive oil, lemon, parsley and mint.  I noticed a Greek version on the back of the box, so I slightly adapted it and I do believe it's my new favorite salad.  My daughter went crazy for it too.  The men in our lives?  Not so much.  But this little guy loved it, much to our surprise:

Mud happens.

He's a big fan of both olives and mud holes. 

Here are my notes:

-Take the time to seed the cucumbers and tomatoes.  You don't want the salad to get soggy or juicy and it will if you don't seed them.

-I didn't have fresh basil, but I think it would have been wonderful in this.  I did have some fresh parsley I threw in, even though the boxed salad mix already had it in it as well as some other herbs and seasonings.  I would recommend throwing in a few fresh herbs if you have them.

-Regular pitted black olives could be substituted for the kalamata, but I really like the kalamata olives even though they are a bit pricey.

-You could probably throw in any fresh veggie you want and it would still be good.

-If I had thought about it at the time, I would have added a can of rinsed and drained chick peas to bump up the protein.  Some type of toasted nut would have been good too. 

-I feel like a health nut when I eat this.  And I like that feeling. 

Greek Taboule Salad

1 (5.25-ounce) package taboule wheat salad mix, prepared according to package directions
3-4 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 (6-ounce) package pitted kalamata olives, sliced
1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
The juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
Stir together all ingredients until mixed, adjusting the amount of olive oil to make the salad moist but not too wet or oily.  Season to taste.  Chill in refrigerator before serving and keep refrigerated.  

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Saturday, September 17, 2011

Dos Caminos, New York, New York

I was going through my pictures today and I realized I forgot to blog about Dos Caminos, the restaurant we ate at on the last night of our recent New York trip.  Now I know if you live in a big city, you may have access to many wonderful, authentic Mexican restaurants, but where I come from, the selection is limited.  Very limited.  And I'll be honest, almost everything around here tastes the same from restaurant to restaurant, and from menu item to menu item.  The chimichangas don't taste a whole lot different from the enchiladas, and it's all covered in the same cheese and sauce.  The plates are always filled with refried beans and orangey-colored rice, with a pile of shredded lettuce and pale tomatoes for garnish.  Now don't get me wrong, I love me some cheesy refried beans and orangey-colored rice, I brake for deep-fried chimichangas, and I'm all about some shredded beef enchiladas, but it's nice to break out of the rut.  It's nice to taste food that is out of the norm from whatever your norm normally is.  (Yeah, that sentence confused me too.)  So after some recommendations from some of the staff at the Cooking Channel (and they ought to know, right?), we walked down the street from our hotel to Dos Caminos with the high hopes of getting a table without a reservation.  And the place was packed.  But, they just happened to have a small table outside and we were able to get seated right away.

Clearly New York loved us.

So for starters, chips with three different salsas.  All smooth.  I really prefer a smooth salsa over a chunky one.  Except pico de gallo.  I love pico de gallo but I don't really consider that a salsa.  Richard and I looked deep into each other's eyes and we knew it was going to be a good night with three. different. salsas. before us.

There was a salsa verde, a milder salsa, and a hot salsa.  I really don't like spicy food so I steered away from the hot one.  But the chips were warm, salty, and slightly oily, just the way they should be.  I hate a dry chip.

And we couldn't help but order quacamole for two.  Guacamole for two cost us $14.  Yes, $14 for quacamole.  I think it was a tad high; however, it was made fresh to order, although, and I'm just being honest here, the quacamole I make at home is just as good.  Theirs looked like it had some pico de gallo in it just like I put in mine.  I will say that it had quite a bit of lime juice and I made a mental note to up my lime juice during my next guacamole making session.

The ceviche caught my eye on the menu.  (Like we really needed another appetizer.) But heck, we were on vacation and livin' it up, so the ceviche trio was ordered.  I was already getting close to full, but I'm nothing if not a food trooper.  I could push through my fullness to super fullness.  I'd done it before, I'd do it again.

Lobster, red snapper, and tuna ceviche.  The lobster was my favorite.  It was quite sweet and I believe our server said it was soaked in coconut milk.  The tuna ceviche tasted Asian to me, but it was totally delicious, and the red snapper was to die for. 

Can't get lobster ceviche in Buckatunna, people.

I ordered a grilled shrimp quesadilla with chili-marinated grilled shrimp, Mexican cheeses, smoked wild mushrooms, and oven-roasted tomatoes.  See what I mean about Mexican with a twist?  Smoked wild mushrooms?  I took about three bites and had to quit.  It was huge and I had already reached super-fullness, but, and I hate to be redundant, it was also delicious.

Richard ordered some tacos.  Honestly, I don't remember what kind.  I think they were steak and I certainly didn't hear any complaining from him.

Good times, good memories, good food.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lorie's Ultimate Coconut Cream Pie

I'm not going to say much about this recipe.  It's my baby and was created simply because I never had real success with any of the coconut pie recipes I had made.  (Anyone ever make a pourable coconut pie before, or is that just me?)  It's one of my all time favorite pies and I worked really hard to get it just the way I wanted.  So even if no one else in the world loves it...I love it. 

Here are some notes:

-This makes a lot of filling.  I find my 9 1/2 inch glass pie plate is filled to the very top when I make it, but when I use a foil pie plate, I cannot fit all of the filling in.  No worries there.  I just put the excess in a small bowl, let it set up for a while in the fridge and eat it with a spoon.

*Update 10-4-11:  Yesterday, I tripled my filling and got four 9-inch foil pie plates filled to the rim, plus a small bowl leftover.  Once the filling in the pies and the bowl set up in the refrigerator for several hours, I was able to spoon the extra filling in the bowl back onto the pies to make them even thicker without them flowing over.  Just a thought.  Also, a reader commented that she did not use the full amount of crust in her pie, so she lined a mason jar with the remainder, baked it, then added the leftover filling.  How cute would that be? I personally use all my crust even when making the smaller foil pie plates because one of my favorite parts of the pie is the crust.

-It has gelatin, cornstarch, and eggs to thicken it.  It does not, however, taste like gelatin, cornstarch or eggs.

-Four kinds of coconut:  real coconut milk, cream of coconut, coconut extract and shredded coconut.

-The crust has both butter and shortening and I really like it that way.  I know some people prefer all butter, but I think shortening gives it a nice, flaky texture.

-The vinegar in the crust helps to make it tender.

-My son-in-law thinks this would be great in a graham cracker crust.  Something to think about.

-I am dying to add pineapple to this pie one day.  I think that would be lovely.  Maybe with a little rum extract?

-One day I will make this with a fresh coconut.  I'll let you know how it turns out. Or you let me know if you do it first.

This recipe was a winner in the pie category in the Perfect Three contest sponsored by The Cooking Channel.  Recipe here.  Video here.  I am putting the recipe on my blog because sponsors often remove links and I want this pie to live on forever. :)

Lorie’s Ultimate Coconut Cream Pie

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup shortening
1/4 cup cold butter, cubed
1 teaspoon white vinegar
2-3 tablespoons ice cold water

1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided
1 envelope (about 2 1/2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin
1 (13.5-ounce) can pure coconut milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 large whole egg
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon coconut extract
1 (15-ounce) can cream of coconut
2 1/2 cups shredded, flaked coconut, divided (sweetened, flaked coconut from the baking aisle)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream
3 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine flour and salt. Cut in shortening and 1/4 cup cold cubed butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in the vinegar and 2 tablespoons water, until mixture forms a ball, adding more water if necessary. Pat into a ball and wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Roll dough out to fit a 9 1/2-10 inch glass pie plate. Place crust in pie plate and trim and crimp edges.  Place the dish on a baking sheet for easier handling.  Prick the bottom and sides of the crust well with a fork.  Line the inside of the crust with a piece of foil, allowing edges to extend several inches beyond the perimeter.  Place 2 cups of dried beans in the crust to weight it down during baking and prevent shrinkage.  Bake for 15 minutes or until crust is no longer raw on bottom.  Remove the foil and beans by carefully lifting the foil out by the overhang.  Bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until light golden brown.  Remove from oven and cool completely.  

Place 1/2 cup cold milk in a mixing bowl (preferably with a pouring spout) and sprinkle with the gelatin. Set aside to soften for about 5 minutes.

Bring the remaining milk and coconut milk to nearly a boil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat.

When the gelatin is soft, add the sugar, cornstarch, egg and egg yolks and whisk until very well blended. Gradually whisk about a 1/4 cup of the hot milk mixture into the gelatin mixture; repeat this process once or twice using about 3/4 cup of the hot milk mixture. Pour the warmed gelatin mixture into the saucepan with the hot milk and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook for about 2 minutes or until mixture is very thick. 

Strain the pastry cream through a fine wire strainer into a large clean bowl; whisk in the butter, coconut extract, and cream of coconut until smooth. Stir in 2 cups shredded coconut.  Pour into the cooled the pie shell and refrigerate for at least 8 hours.

To make the topping, beat the heavy cream in a large bowl on high speed until foamy.  Add the powdered sugar and vanilla, and beat until soft to medium stiff peaks form.  Spread over the pie.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup coconut.   Keep refrigerated.
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Monday, September 5, 2011

Biscoff Buttercream Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies

So the bloggy world has been all abuzz about Biscoff spread, making me pea green with envy because I didn't know where I would find a jar without driving two hours or making an internet order. But last night after church, I made a quick dash to Wal-Mart to pick up a few groceries, and behold, in the peanut butter aisle, right next to the Nutella, I saw this glorious sight:

I knew we would become fast friends.

And this morning, when I woke up to gentle sound of rain, not to mention the tornado warning beeping on the Weather Channel, I knew that before the day was over I'd be baking something.  It was just that kind of rainy day weather that sends me to the kitchen.

And to seek shelter in a bathtub with a mattress over my head, but that's neither here nor there.

Anyway, Biscoff is a silky European spread made from Biscoff cookies.  Think peanut butter.  Think Nutella.  If you like Nutella, you will probably like Biscoff.  Most of my jar went into the buttercream to fill my snickerdoodle whoopie pies.  My daughter and her crew came over for a rainy Labor Day get together and we all devoured them with lots of ooh's and aah's.  They loved.  I love also.

Here are my notes:

-The dough is a little sticky, so use two spoons to roll it in the sugar and transfer to the baking sheet.  It doesn't have to be perfectly round, though.  I use an ice cream scoop that measures 1/4 cup.

 -I used a piping bag with a very large star tip to pipe the frosting on half of them, but you could use a spatula and spread it on too.  Whatever floats your boat.

-Chilling the dough may give you a more rounded, puffy look if that is what your going for.  I was too impatient to chill mine.  But I may do that in the future.

-Let the cakes cool completely before frosting.

Biscoff Buttercream Snickerdoodle Whoopie Pies

Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon

1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Biscoff spread
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray two large baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray.  In a large mixing bowl, beat together the butter, 1 cup light brown sugar, the egg and vanilla until light and fluffy.  Combine the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour in a large bowl.  Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture alternately with the buttermilk, beating on medium speed until combined, stopping to scrape down the sides several times.

Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon in a small bowl.  Drop the dough by a 1/4 cup measure ice cream or cookie scoop into the cinnamon sugar mixture and coat all sides using two spoons (dough will be sticky).  Place onto the baking sheets spacing about 3 inches apart.  Bake for 15 minutes, until they're set and firm to the touch. Remove from oven and cool completely on pans.

Meanwhile, beat the 1 1/2 sticks butter, the Biscoff spread, and the powdered sugar together on high speed until smooth and fluffy.  Spread the flat side of half of the cooled cakes with the buttercream, then sandwich with another cake, flat side on buttercream.   (Or use a piping bag and large star tip to pipe the on frosting.)  Makes about 8 whoopie pies.

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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Cheesy Venison Soft Tacos and Crispy Quesadillas

See this man?  He hunts deer and stuff.

Which means I cook deer and stuff.

And he hunts with a flintlock muzzleloader, but that information isn't really necessary to know for the remainder of this post.

Another piece of information that is completely unnecessary is that the day I made this picture, I laid in the grass in the woods because I was trying to act like a real photographer, and everybody knows that real photographers always lie in the grass to get the best shots.

What I didn't know was that the grass was filled with chiggers.  I found that out the next day.

Just for the record, I'm completely scabbed over.

Now for the recipe.

Deer meat can be kind of dry, so one of my favorite ways to cook it is in a crock pot with some type of gravy or sauce to give it moisture, which is exactly what I do here.  In fact, if you didn't know, you might not be able to tell this from beef.  

This shredded venison meat is a life saver when I don't have time to cook or I'm busy with other projects and I don't want to cook.  (Like when my hubby asks me to photograph him in the deep woods.) These tacos are a little bit different from the ones I posted here.  I usually make a big batch, then fill tortillas with the meat and some cheese, wrap them in deli wrap paper, and put them in the fridge.  Whenever we get hungry, we pop one or six into the microwave and they come out all melted and gooey.  They're packed with protein, very filling, and everybody loves them.  I also use this meat to make cheesy venison quesadillas.  Exact same ingredients, just cooked on a griddle with a little butter for a crispy outside.  They're not very photogenic, but they're delicious, cheap, easy, and convenient.  You could totally dress this meal up with beans and Mexican rice.

Some notes:

-I used Colby jack and regular sharp cheddar cheese, but monterey jack is also delicious.  Any melting cheese you like will probably do nicely.

-Seasonings can be adjusted to taste , of course.

-I usually don't sear my meat in a skillet first, because that just gives me another pan to wash.  It works turns out fine just putting the meat in a crock pot with all the other ingredients.  Less work, less clean up.  But you can sear if you want.  I have nothing against a good caramelization on a piece of meat.  I'm just lazy.

-I usually use the tougher ham or shoulder meat for this, because I like to save the tenderloin and backstrap for other methods of cooking. 

-This would be a good time to sing the praises of these wax paper sheets:

I get them at Sam's Club in bulk and I can't live without them.  I use them for a number of things.

I wrap my soft tacos in them and they go directly to the microwave with no problem.  I wrap sandwiches in them.  They allow the sandwich to breathe and not get soggy, while keeping them fresh.  So much better than those little sandwich baggies.  I cut circles out of them and line my cake pans, then spray with non-stick cooking spray.  I never have a cake to stick, ever.  I keep a box by the microwave and cover food with them for a splatter guard.  I line baking sheets with them when I'm dipping candy in chocolate to place the candy on.  Or, you can line baking sheets with them and baking cookies on them.  The list goes on and on.  They last a really long time, too.  I don't think I buy them more than once a year and I use them all the time.

-I wouldn't be concerned with slightly over-filling your quesadilla.  The cheese and meat that hangs out will get crispy on the griddle and it's delicious.  I like a little over hang.

Shredded Venison Taco Meat

1(15-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 cup water
1 beef bouillon cube
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2 pounds venison (ham, roast, shoulder) 

Combine first 8 ingredients in a crock pot, then add venison.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4-6 hours.  When meat is cooked through, remove from pot and set aside until it’s cool enough to touch.  Shred the meat with fingers or two forks, then add back to the juices in the crock pot and stir.  Use a slotted spoon to fill flour tortillas for tacos or quesadillas.

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