Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Chicken Enchilada Casserole Rojo (or Verde)

Rojo Version
Verde Version
My sunflowers are starting to bloom.  Unfortunately, we discovered worms all over them.  And I didn't see this coming.  I guess I only think of pests like this when it comes to fruits and vegetables, but apparently they like flowers too.  I've dusted and sprayed and although it's helped, there are still some here and there.  I guess the next step is a rifle.  I am hoping that we can at least have enough blooms to have a small sea of yellow for some fall pictures.  The ones that have bloomed are beautiful and next time we do this, we will be more prepared since we know what to expect.  You live and learn, people.

So I pinned a green chile chicken casserole recipe a few weeks ago that I have been meaning to try.  I got in my kitchen the other day to make it and discovered my cilantro was wilted, I didn't have tomatillos, and I had bought red enchilada sauce instead of green.  So I had to work with what I had.  I made a lot of substitutions, but in the end it was delicious.  I made it the same way again, but as a green (verde) version, and again, it was a big hit.  What I like about this is that it's a make-ahead-and-stick-it-in-the-fridge-until-your-ready-to-bake-it-meal.  What intrigued me about the original recipe is that it called for 1/2 cup of heavy cream to be poured on top of the cheese.  I did this with mine and I got a beautiful golden brown crust.  Yum.

Here are my notes:

- I am currently loving this roasted salsa verde:

-It's important to let this cool for about 15 minutes before you cut into it.  It will be too liquidy if you don't. 

Chicken Enchilada Casserole Rojo (or Verde)

Extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Salt and pepper to taste

1 (28-ounce) can red enchilada sauce
16 ounces sour cream
15 corn tortillas
16 ounces Monterey Jack cheese, shredded
1/2 cup heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet until hot, then add the onion and cook until soft.  Add garlic and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, then add chicken.  Sprinkle with cumin and salt and pepper taste and stir until mixed.  Remove from heat.

Stir together the enchilada sauce and sour cream until smooth.  Spoon 1/2 cup of the sauce into the dish. Line the dish with 5 of the tortillas in an even layer, tearing them as needed to fit.  Sprinkle with half of the chicken mixture and 1/3 of the cheese, then spread with 1/3 of the remaining sauce. Repeat with 5 more tortillas, the remaining chicken mixture, 1/2 of the remaining cheese and 1/2 of the remaining sauce.  Top with the remaining tortillas, sauce and cheese. Pour the cream evenly over the top.  Bake for 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese is golden brown on top.  Let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

*To make a green (verde) casserole, substitute 1 (14-ounce) can green chile enchilada sauce plus 16-ounces salsa verde in place of the red enchilada sauce.

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Saturday, September 22, 2012

MK's Chocolate Chip Cookies

So for four days a week right now, I keep my grandson during the day while my daughter attends cosmetology school.  Slight change of plans from last year when she was studying nutrition, and the year before that when it was nursing, but for realz, we have nailed her career choice this time.  Really. 

And filling up a long day with activities that don't involve sitting in front of the TV in a stare down with Dora the Explorer when she asks "Does THIS one have stripes and spots?!" can be quite challenging.

(So can some of Dora's questions, but I usually get them right on the second try.)

Naturally, I turn to the kitchen to fill up our time.  And there is nothing in this world like baking with a three year old boy.  It's quite the adventure and I take every opportunity to teach him proper baking methods and important stuff like, you know, how to count to four. 

The only time we really lack in the communication department is when I try to explain that eating cookie dough with raw eggs in it is strictly prohibited for little boys, but since Lolli is not a little boy, the same rules do not apply to her.

Sorry, pookie.  That's just the way of the world.

(Oh, I kid.  I don't eat raw cookie dough in front him.  I do it when he's not looking.)

And when I want to take just one picture, JUST ONE, with him smiling and looking at the camera, you'd think he was doing a commercial shoot for baking products.

I would not, however, give up this time with him for anything in this world.  These are precious, precious memories we are making.  

Messy, precious memories.

Now, I know the world probably needs another chocolate chip cookie recipe like it needs a hole in the head, a new reality TV show, or the resurgence of the popular but oh so wrong eighties' jelly shoe, but here is the recipe I have been tinkering with.  It has two special ingredients, cornstarch and vinegar.  I borrowed the cornstarch from the Levain copycat recipe that floats all over the Internet.  The vinegar came to me by messenger angel one night in a dream.

Kidding.  Again.  

But as I was brainstorming about what I could put in the dough to keep it tender and soft, I was reminded (seriously it may HAVE been an angel whispering in my ear) that I put vinegar in my pie crusts to keep them tender, so maybe I should try that with my cookies.

I did and the result was a tender cookie on the inside with a crispy outside and two thumbs up from my loving family. 

I am not saying this is the best recipe in the whole world (because there are so many versions out there, who really knows), but I am saying that I have made four batches and the masses are begging for more.  Does the vinegar and cornstarch make that much of a difference?  I am not a scientist, so I can't say for sure, but I do know that a little tweak here and there can greatly affect results in baking.  

I have  notes:  

-I did not chill the first batch and I got some beautiful, firm, crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, jumbo, bake sale-appropriate cookies.  I used a 1/2 cup ice cream scoop and baked them for about 23 minutes.

 -On the second batch, I chilled my dough for about 20 minutes and got a puffier, tender-on-the-inside, with more irregular-ragged-edges-on-top cookie, looking a tad more like the Levain Bakery cookies.  However, I actually liked the first batch (flatter) better.

The one on the right had been chilled.
The one on the right had been chilled.
-With the third and fourth batch, which I foolishly did not take pictures of, I used a smaller scoop which measured 1/4 cup, MILK chocolate chips, and I only baked them for about 13 minutes or until just barely starting to brown around the edges.  They were very tender and soft, had the beautiful wrinkles on top (as opposed to the bumpy, ragged, golden brown edges of the second batch) and were my favorite. Milk chocolate chips are the way to go in my book.

-Yes, I used salted, not unsalted butter.  There are real bakers cringing right now.  But I'm just being real.

-I love walnuts in my cookies, so next time I am adding walnuts.  Toasted before hand.

Now, my blogging buddy Lisa from Snappy Gourmet had also put a similar spin on her own version, and I recently found this post from her archives.  I thought her post was very informative, so hop on over there to see her notes and recipe.  As with all chocolate chip cookie recipes, they are similar, yet different.

Now go bake some cookies.  Any cookies.  With someone you love who may or may not put their little feet all over your counter and stack butter sticks like building blocks. 

MK's Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 (12-ounce) bag semi-sweet, milk, or bittersweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Beat the butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs and beat until mixed.  Beat in vinegar and vanilla.   

Mix together the flour, salt, baking soda, and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly add to batter and mix just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips by hand until mixed. 

Drop dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheet by 1/2 cupfuls.  (I use a large 1/2 cup measure ice cream scoop.)  Leave about 2 inches in between cookies.  Bake 20-25 minutes or until cookies are set and light golden brown around.  Cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  Decrease time for smaller cookies.

Psych, Lolli!

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Monday, September 17, 2012

The Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Cornbread Master Mix

Soup season is upon us (okay, almost), and one of the most perfect accompaniments to soups and stews is cornbread.  Up until about six months ago, I almost always used a packaged mix from the store, which was fine, until one day I began wondering if I was missing out by not making cornbread from scratch.

Because I wouldn't want to miss out.

So I began looking for a "from scratch" cornbread recipe, and my search didn't take me very far, because I just hopped next door to the Pioneer woman's URL (she lives next door to my URL in the blogosphere, FYI)  and printed off her recipe.  And OH THE CRUNCHY EDGES AND MOIST CENTER!  I am now a convert and this has been the only recipe I have used for the last six months or so.  It is excellent and not only do I say that, but everyone who I have made it for says so too.  In fact, they ask me "Are you making that homemade cornbread recipe, tonight, Mom?  MMMMMMM!"

But I will say that compared to a mix, this is a little more time consuming, and what I don't have now is a lot of extra time, because my life has changed somewhat with the start of my business.  So I got all smart one day and created a master mix from her recipe.  And I want to share it with you all because I love you, and I realize that three extra minutes saved is a huge amount of time if you are time challenged.

So if you want to make just a single recipe, get her recipe right here.  And if you want to make a master mix and live your life stress free, my instructions below.

Here are my notes:

-In a pinch, I have substituted canola (or vegetable) oil for the shortening.  It will work, but I just don't think it is as good.

-I have used all milk instead of buttermilk and milk, and again, it will work, but if you want your cornbread to be awesome (and I know you do) use the buttermilk.

-I do not use Kosher salt for my master mix.  In my mind, I think the Kosher salt won't mix in as well as regular salt.  I envisioning the Kosher salt falling to the bottom of the canister because the granules are heavier and bigger.  You want the master mix to be well mixed.  Now, I don't know this will happen, it's just my thought that it might.  Does anyone else think that this could happen?  Or do I think too much?

-Like I said above, it needs to be mixed well.  I usually put all of my ingredients into my Kitchen Aid with my whisk attachment and mix on low speed, stopping to scrape down sides and the bottom with a rubber scraper.  Mix for 4 -5 minutes.

-Do not over bake the cornbread or muffins.  The cornbread should be firm to the touch in the middle an lightly golden brown.  I almost always put my skillet under the broiler for a deep golden brown.  If your making mini corn muffins, they can dry out very quickly, so watch them carefully.

The Pioneer Woman’s Skillet Cornbread Master Mix

(Adapted from The Pioneer Woman)

6 cups yellow cornmeal
3 cups all-purpose flour
6 teaspoons salt (regular, not Kosher)
6 tablespoons baking powder
3 teaspoons baking soda

Mix thoroughly and place in an airtight container.  Store in a cool place.

 When you get ready to make the skillet cornbread:

1 1/2 cups plus 1 1/2 tablespoons of mix
1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup milk
1 whole egg, beaten
1/4 cup shortening, melted and cooled
2 tablespoons shortening for skillet

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Place the mix in a large mixing bowl.  Add the buttermilk, milk, and beaten egg and stir until just mixed.  Stir in the 1/4 cup melted shortening just until combined.

In a 10 1/2 inch cast iron skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons shortening over medium heat until very hot.  Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)  Cook on stovetop for 1 minute, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until light golden brown and set in the firm in the middle.   Do not over bake!  Place under broiler to brown if needed.

To make mini cornbread muffins, spray a mini muffin tin with nonstick cooking spray and fill each cup about 2/3 full.  These should bake in 15 minutes depending on the oven.  Do not over bake or they will dry out and become tough.  Bake just until they are set in the middle.

*Stir in shredded cheese, corn, green chiles, bacon bits, etc. into the batter for variations.

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Monday, September 10, 2012

Oatmeal-Pear Caramel Glazed Cookies

I am starting to see a few signs of fall here and there, and I am almost sure I smelled it as I walked out of church last night.  The fact that I have to go get on the lawn mower today is proof that it's not quite here yet, but still....I dream of autumn colors, and I burn apple cider scented candles and take inventory of my scarves in preparation.

I also bake cookies.

So I have a couple of pear trees that produce more pears than I know what to do with, and even though they are spotty on the outside (maybe the variety or maybe a disease?), the fruit still tastes delicious.  I grate a couple of pears and throw them into the dough along with some warm cinnamon.  And I just think they needed a little bit of something extra, so I top them off with a caramel glaze.  They're soft cookies and are perfect to usher in fall.

Here are my notes:

-Squeeze the excess juice out of the pears before you stir them in.  Really important.

-Some nuts would go well in these too.  Go for it!

-I'm also thinking some nutmeg would be a nice addition.

-My cookie scoop measures one tablespoon.  I think I got about 40 cookies.

-Place your cookies on a rack over a baking sheet before drizzling with the caramel glaze, to catch the glaze that will run off.

-Break one cookie in chunks, then swipe it through the glaze on the pan that has dripped off the other cookies.  Immediately shove it in your mouth.  This is my bonus tip. 

 Oatmeal-Pear Cookies with Caramel Glaze

1 cup butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup quick oats
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup grated pears (about 2 large pears), squeeze the juice out

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line a large baking sheet parchment paper.

Cream butter and sugars on medium speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy; add eggs and vanilla and mix until combined.

Mix the flour, oats, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Slowly add to wet ingredients and mix until combined.  Stir in the grated pears by hand.  Scoop dough onto baking sheet with a medium cookie scoop. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until edges just start to turn golden brown. Let cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack placed over a baking sheet.  

Caramel Glaze
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or other sea salt (optional)
1/2 cup powdered sugar, sifted

In a saucepan over medium-low heat, melt the butter. Stir in brown sugar. Cook stirring often, for 1 minute or until bubbly. Stir in the evaporated milk. Bring to a boil. Cook for two minutes stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and whisk in vanilla, salt, and powdered sugar.  Immediately drizzle over cookies.  Put cookies in fridge until glaze hardens, but store at room temperature.  About 40 cookies.

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