31 August 2010

Nonna's German Sweet Chocolate Brownies

2 remarks

After reading Aunt Sue's post on This Old Paper entitled "Nonna's German Sweet Chocolate Brownies", I knew I had to make those brownies.  I have been looking for a brownie recipe for a while now, and I always find myself going back to a mix.  The brownies I have a made from scratch always seemed to have something wrong with them.  They never seemed to be quite right no matter what recipe I tried.  I was beginning to think maybe I didn't like brownies they way they are 'supposed' to taste, and I had been conditioned to prefer the mix.  Oh, let it not be so!

Armed with a new recipe with Nonna and Aunt Sue's seal of approval, I figured this would be my best shot at finding a brownie recipe I would enjoy.  After finding it incredibly easy to convince Valerie and the kids to let me try a new brownie recipe, off to the store we went to get what we needed for the brownies.  With confidence brimming, I purchased some sweet German chocolate and headed home to get cooking.

The brownies were a cinch to prepare and filled the house with the sweet smell of chocolate as they were baking.  Waiting for them to cool was an act of patience I don't soon want to repeat, but I stayed strong.  My patience was rewarded as soon as I tried one.  Still a bit warm from the oven, the brownie was rich, dense, chocolaty, sweet and chewy.  My idea of a darn good brownie.  I have posted the recipe below.  The original recipe calls for margarine, but I substituted butter without any issues.  I also omitted nuts from mine.  We're a nutless brownie kind of group in my house.  I also chose not to put icing on the brownies this time, though I'm sure it would be delicious!

German Sweet Chocolate Brownies
Makes 16
Printable Recipe
1 pkg. (4 oz.) Baker’s German Sweet Chocolate
1/4 C (1/2 Stick) margarine (or butter)
3/4 C Sugar
2 Eggs
1 t Vanilla
1/2 C Flour
1/2 C coarsely chopped Nuts

Melt chocolate and margarine in a 2-quart saucepan over very low heat; stir constantly until just melted. Remove from heat. Stir sugar into melted chocolate. Stir in eggs and vanilla until completely mixed. Mix in flour until well-blended. Stir in nuts. Spread in greased 8-inch square pan. Bake 350 degrees – 25 min. (Do not overbake) Cool in pan. Cut in squares.
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If you wish icing -

Over low heat melt 4 (1 oz.) squares Baker’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate with 1/4 C (1/2 Stick) margarine (or butter). Stirring constantly until just melted. Spread over Brownies. Chill. Cut into squares.

29 August 2010

Where is "When I Was Young"?

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On June 5th, I posted about the expanded 25th Anniversary 2CD and digital edition of R.E.M.'s 1985 album, Fables Of The Reconstruction.  I was excited about the bonus disc containing an unreleased demo titled "Throw Those Trolls Away."  To the best of my knowledge, I had never heard that song before and was looking froward to hearing a 'new' song from one of my favorite periods of the band.

As it turns out, I had heard the song before.  It was performed live on April 28, 1985 and I have a copy of that recording.  I suppose hearing a new R.E.M. song from 1985 was too good to be true, but it was fun to hear the demo of the song.  There was also a bit of confusion.

Included in the artwork for the Fables Of The Reconstruction album was a track list that included a song titled "When I Was Young."  Years ago, when I first saw this track list, I was intrigued about what happened to the song.  Why didn't R.E.M. decide to include it on the album?  Years later, when I was amassing my collection of concerts, I was thrilled to see "When I Was Young" listed on one of the set lists.  When I first heard it, it sounded an awful lot like the song "I Believe" from R.E.M.'s next album Lifes Rich Pageant in 1986.  I figured it was just retitled and reworked for the Lifes Rich Pageant.

Granted, titles for new songs listed on a bootleg concert should be taken with a grain of salt, but "When I Was Young" sure sounded like the correct title.  It seemds to me that "Throw Those Trolls Away" was not the name of that song back then, especially since a song by the name of "When I Was Young" is listed on the album artwork and "When I was young" are the first words to the song itself.  I guess it will just remain a mystery.  Perhaps the "When I Was Young" listed on the album artwork is a different song entirely.  Though, I doubt it.

I do believe that "When I Was Young" became "I Believe."  Maybe this was common knowledge and the band decided to change the name to "Throw Those Trolls Away" to drive album sales.  Maybe it just sounded cooler to have a song with 'trolls' in the title.  I have posted "Throw Those Trolls Away" and "I Believe" for comparisons sake.  The picture for "Throw Those Trolls Away" is from the Fables of the Reconstruction artwork and "When I Was Young" is listed on the second line.


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I'm sure I have put way too much thought into this...

26 August 2010

I got my wish...

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(click image for larger view)

On November 7, 1993 this Calvin and Hobbes comic was in our Sunday paper.  I was thirteen at the time, and looking through the funny pages to read a new Calvin and Hobbes was such a joy.  This one in particular stands out because my mom loved it.  I don't remember who did it, but it ended up taped on the wall in the living room, right by the kitchen door.

A couple years later, we moved out of that house on Elm Street.  I remember leaving that comic up on the wall, no one wanted to take it down.  It was the only thing left on the walls in an otherwise empty house.  My grandparents ended up buying that house from us, and that comic is still on the wall, in the very same spot.  Whenever I see it, it always brings a smile to my face.

24 August 2010

Onion Dip from Scratch

2 remarks

From an elegant dish such as French onion soup, to a simple dip in which to dip a chip, caramelized onions do not disappoint.  I wasn't really a fan of chips and dip until I made my own dip.  I have to say, making onion dip from scratch is far superior to buying a packet of seasoning or buying it pre-made in the refrigerated section of the grocery store.  Plus, it is so simple, there really is no reason not to make it from scratch (I apologize for the double negative, it just seemed to make my point better).  The most involved step is dicing the onions and caramelizing them, but once that is done, the rest is as easy as dumping a seasoning packet in some mayo and stirring. 

Yes, Alton Brown strikes again.  The recipe I use comes from him.  It is yet another example of AB taking a regular food item most people take for granted, teaching the viewers how to make it themselves, and redefining what it is supposed to taste like.  It really is one of my favorite things about cooking, discovering what mass market, processed foods were meant to taste like, and sharing them with my friends and family.  So, if you want to know what real onion dip tastes like, give this recipe a try.  It will redefine the way you think of chips and dip.  Oh, and it helps if you make your own mayonnaise, too! 

Onion Dip from Scratch
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown
Printable Recipe

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups diced onions
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
In a saute pan over medium heat add oil, heat and add onions and salt. Cook the onions until they are caramelized, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside to cool. Mix the rest of the ingredients, and then add the cooled onions. Refrigerate and stir again before serving.

20 August 2010

Gyro

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When Eva was in town earlier this summer, we had gyros for dinner one Friday night.  Once all the components were prepped, we put them all on my wooden cutting board for serving at the table.  It was such a beautiful image, I had to take a picture; and so did Eva.


It was such a delicious meal.  Gyros always seemed like something I wouldn't be able to make as a home cook.  Though, thanks to Alton Brown, I am able to make my own, and his recipe does not disappoint.  The flavors are spot on, and it is a wonderful refreshing sandwich. 


As soon as the Good Eats episode "My Big Fat Greek Sandwich" aired in 2005, I knew I had to make this sandwich.  Unfortunately, my grill does not have a rotisserie; but to my relief, Alton Brown included a 'meatloaf' method for preparing the meat.  Lamb is expensive here, so we rarely have gyros; but when we do, it is a real treat.  I can usually count on Angela to request them for her birthday meal.

The preparation for the meat is unlike anything I have ever done.  The method basically consists of making a puree out of the lamb, onion and spices in the food processor before baking it low and slow in a water bath.  The pureed meat is very pink and sticky, and we affectionately refer to it as 'meat paste'; but it does at least smell good.  Once the meat comes out of the oven, the fat is drained and then the meat is compressed further by placing a weight on it.  It really is quite a sight.

It's definitely worth it, though.  These sandwiches are delicious, and we rarely have leftovers.  Alton also has a tzatziki sauce recipe that I always make to accompany the gyros.  His recipe calls for plain yogurt to be drained, but I like using Greek yogurt.  Here's the recipe:

Gyro Meat with Tzatziki Sauce
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2005
Printable Recipe

Ingredients
•1 medium onion, finely chopped or shredded
•2 pounds ground lamb
•1 tablespoon finely minced garlic
•1 tablespoon dried marjoram
•1 tablespoon dried ground rosemary
•2 teaspoons kosher salt
•1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•Tzatziki Sauce, recipe follows

Directions
Process the onion in a food processor for 10 to 15 seconds and turn out into the center of a tea towel. Gather up the ends of the towel and squeeze until almost all of the juice is removed. Discard juice.

Return the onion to the food processor and add the lamb, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, salt, and pepper and process until it is a fine paste, approximately 1 minute. Stop the processor as needed to scrape down sides of bowl.

To cook in the oven as a meatloaf, proceed as follows:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Place the mixture into a loaf pan, making sure to press into the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a water bath and bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until the mixture reaches 165 to 170 degrees F. Remove from the oven and drain off any fat. Place the loaf pan on a cooling rack and place a brick wrapped in aluminum foil directly on the surface of the meat and allow to sit for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees F. Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes and feta cheese.

To cook on a rotisserie, proceed as follows:

Form the meat mixture into a loaf shape and place on top of 2 overlapping pieces of plastic wrap that are at least 18 inches long. Roll the mixture in the plastic wrap tightly, making sure to remove any air pockets. Once the meat is completely rolled in the wrap, twist the ends of the plastic wrap until the surface of the wrap is tight. Store in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours or up to overnight, to allow the mixture to firm up.

Preheat the grill to high.

Place the meat onto the rotisserie skewer. Place a double-thick piece of aluminum foil folded into a tray directly under the meat to catch any drippings. Cook on high for 15 minutes. Decrease the heat to medium and continue to cook for another 20 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 165 degrees F. Turn off the heat and allow to continue to spin for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 175 degrees. Slice and serve on pita bread with tzatziki sauce, chopped onion, tomatoes, and feta cheese.

Tzatziki Sauce:

16 ounces plain yogurt
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped
Pinch kosher salt
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 to 6 mint leaves, finely minced

Place the yogurt in a tea towel, gather up the edges, suspend over a bowl, and drain for 2 hours in the refrigerator.

Place the chopped cucumber in a tea towel and squeeze to remove the liquid; discard liquid. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the drained yogurt, cucumber, salt, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, and mint. Serve as a sauce for gyros. Store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to a week.

Yield: 1 1/2 cups

18 August 2010

Frozen Blueberry Pie

3 remarks

I found this frozen blueberry disk the other day and figured I should probably do something with it.  I mean, who leaves a frozen blueberry disk just laying around, seriously?  Not knowing what to do at first, I did what anyone would do in my situation; I searched the Internet.  Wouldn't you know it, Alton Brown has a blueberry pie recipe, and it calls for freezing the filling before making the pie.  Mystery solved!  Darn!  And I was hoping to go play some Frisbee golf with it. 

You may be wondering why would one want to freeze the filling first.  Well, according to AB, it makes it a lot easier to assemble the lattice top.  By having a solid base in which to work, it really is a much simpler task to handle the strips of dough to make the lattice pattern.


The lattice top makes for such a nice presentation as well.  But, presentation isn't everything.  In my opinion, flavor is what really counts.  So, how does the pie taste?  Amazing!  The blueberries are nice and tart.  There is a sweetness, though not overwhelming.  The hint of orange in the background is a nice touch as well.  Also, the filling sets up nicely, and is not at all runny.  All in all, this is a wonderful blueberry pie.  Plus, by freezing the filling, these pies can be enjoyed throughout the year, and it is a wonderful way to deal with a surplus of fresh summer blueberries.


Below is Alton Brown's recipe.  Notice it calls for store-bought pie dough, which is a no-no in my pie baking book.  Feel free to make your own pie dough, which is what I did.  I think the pie crust is just as important as the filling.  I think AB was just trying to make it simpler since the pie filling was already frozen.  Regardless, this is a wonderful pie!  Boy, am I glad I found that frozen blueberry disk!

Frozen Blueberry Pie
Recipe courtesy Alton Brown, 2007
Printable Recipe

Ingredients
20 ounces blueberries, approximately 4 cups
4 ounces sugar, approximately 1/2 cup
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/4 ounces tapioca flour, approximately 5 tablespoons
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 (9-inch) store-bought pie doughs
1 egg yolk whisked with 1 teaspoon water

Directions
Wash the berries and pat dry. Mash up half of the blueberries in a small bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt and tapioca flour. Add the mashed blueberries, orange juice and orange zest and stir to combine. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes. Fold in the whole berries.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with aluminum foil. Place the blueberry mixture into the foil and place in the freezer until solid, approximately 6 to 8 hours.

Once the filling is frozen, remove from the aluminum foil and wrap in plastic wrap and store in a freezer bag for up to 3 months.

For baking:
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Unroll first piece of dough and place into a 9-inch pie pan, making sure the dough reaches to the lip of the pie pan. Trim excess, if necessary. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork and set aside. Unroll second piece of dough and cut into 1 1/8-inch wide strips that are at least 10-inches long. Using a ruler that is 1 1/8-inches wide, lay the ruler on the dough at 1 edge and roll across dough using the edge of the ruler as you go to cut through the dough.

Remove the frozen pie filling from the freezer and place into the prepared dough in the pan. Lightly brush the edge of the crust with the egg yolk. Lay 4 strips of dough across the top of the filling horizontally, leaving an even amount of space in between each strip. Fold back 2 alternating strips and lay down another strip in the middle of the pie, perpendicular to the other strips. Return the strips that are laid back to their original position. Next, fold back the other 2 strips and lay down a strip to the left of the center perpendicular strip. Return the strips that are laid back to their original position and repeat on the other side of the perpendicular strip, folding back the same 2 strips as you did on the other side. Once you have a lattice, brush all the strips of dough with the egg yolk, trim excess dough and pinch strips and edge of crust in order to seal. Place on the bottom rack of the oven and bake for about 1 hour 15 minutes. The pie should be bubbling lightly around the edges. If the lattice is not browned enough in the center, place under the broiler for 1 to 2 minutes.

Place the pie on a rack and allow to cool to room temperature before serving, approximately 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

16 August 2010

Cantaloupe

3 remarks

This summer, I tasted the most juicy, sweet, flavorful cantaloupe.  Even better, it came from my very own garden.  I never realized gardening could be so much fun, and so rewarding.  I'm already thinking about what I want to plant next year.  One thing is for sure, cantaloupe will be on the list!

13 August 2010

Move over Lender's

4 remarks
After putting it off, and putting it off, I have finally made my own bagels from scratch.  For some reason, I was very intimidated by the recipe, so I kept waiting for a day when I could have no interruptions and totally focus on the bagels.  With it being the middle of summer, and having a two and four-year-old running around, those undisturbed opportunities come few and far between.  Thankfully, there were a couple of events that pushed me over the brink to give me the extra motivation I needed to make these edible wonders.

First of all, I just got back from vacation, and I hadn't baked anything in over a week; so I really needed to get my hands in some dough.  Secondly, I just ate an unsatisfying store-bought bagel and was really craving the real thing.  Now, I am not a bagel snob by any means.  I enjoy bagels from Panera Bread, and also buy Thomas bagels at the grocery store every now and then.  However, I bought a package of frozen Lender's egg bagels that were basically just yellow, round, stale white bread.  No chewiness, no crisp exterior, just soft and bland.

Maybe I expected too much from the Lender's bagel.  I remember eating them at my grandparents' house piled high with cream cheese so many years ago.  The egg bagel had a certain something that made it different that I always enjoyed.  I saw the Lender's bagels in my grocer's freezer and was looking forward to rediscovering that flavor.  Unfortunately, these bagels only looked like the bagels from my childhood, the flavor was no where near what I remember.  Maybe it was a bad batch, maybe frozen bagels just aren't the way to go anymore.  Nevertheless, this experience did give me the little nudge I needed to get in the kitchen and make my own.

My bagel making experience what nothing but delightful.  Even though there were many steps, they all were fairly quick and easy.  The longest steps involved were just waiting for the dough to rise.  Even better, once I formed the bagels, they had to sit overnight in the refrigerator, so I was able to have them freshly baked for breakfast the next morning. 


These home-made bagels are absolutely delicious, and I plan on making more in the future.  They are chewy, dense, and full of flavor.  Plus, they toasted up nicely as we ate them over the next few days.  For my next batch, I may top them with some poppy and sesame seeds.  Oh, the possibilities!

11 August 2010

Super Mario Quilt

2 remarks

The Super Mario quilt is complete!  I am so happy with the way it turned out, too.  I love the colors, plus having a life-size quilted Mario is pretty cool.  It didn't take me as long to complete it as I thought it would, and it wasn't nearly as tedious as I was anticipating by using smaller squares. 

Even more happy to have the quilt completed is Ari, who had been asking me when it would be finished since I bought the fabric.  The night I finished it, I took it up to his room and covered him with it so he would be surprised when he woke up.  He was pretty thrilled the next morning.  It fits on his bed nicely, too.


Hmmm...maybe I should make a Princess Peach quilt for Emilie...

09 August 2010

Murrells Inlet Seafood

4 remarks
A couple years ago, we vacationed in South Carolina and stayed at a beach house in Murrells Inlet. The house had a full kitchen, so I made a point to prepare some fresh fish while we were there.  The first time we set out to find some fresh fish was on a Sunday evening; and Eva, Uncle Marc and I left the house confident that we would find a fish market.  As we were driving, we found a couple a fish markets, but they were closed on Sunday.  Just as we were losing hope we found Murrells Inlet Seafood.  As we got to the door we found that it was locked!  They had just closed and we saw an employee inside looking at us and telling us the same.  With our spirits low, we headed back to the truck.  Just as we were getting to the parking lot, we heard the store door open and someone hollering at us telling us we could come in.  We quickly made our purchases and headed back to the beach house anticipating the wonderful meal we were about to enjoy.  We went back to Murrells Inlet Seafood two more times that week, each time choosing a new fish to try, each time preparing a memorable meal. Cooking that fresh fish with Eva was really the highlight of the trip for me.


We planned another trip to Murrells Inlet this year, and I was most excited to go back to Murrells Inlet Seafood to get some more fresh fish.  We really don't have a good fish source here in Kokomo, Indiana, so being able to take advantage of the local seafood of the area is really important to me.  Eva unfortunately didn't make the trip this time, but Angela cooked with me every night we made fish, and we had a lot of fun, too. 

The first fish I prepared on our trip was a local grouper, pan seared in butter and olive oil, finished with salt and pepper and some fresh lemon juice; with steamed baby carrots and asparagus in brown butter on the side.


Our second fish dish was halibut, prepared the same way as the grouper, served with roasted cauliflower and wilted spinach.


Our last seafood dinner consisted of a locally made crab cake, shrimp and conch fritters, roasted red potatoes, and corn on the cob.


We ate well on our trip and I really enjoyed preparing my own seafood.  There are many seafood restaurants in the Murrells Inlet area, but I really feel this is the way to go.

07 August 2010

Rocky Road

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I scream.  You scream.  We all scream for ice cream!  Rocky road ice cream, to be exact.  I have made ice cream in the past, but kept it pretty basic by just making vanilla or chocolate.  I have been craving rocky road ice cream, but the only one's I could find had a marshmallow swirl and not actual marshmallows.  So, I decided to just make my own.

After making some marshmallows for some rice crispy treats, I decided it was a good time to try my hand at the ice cream.  I found a basic chocolate ice cream recipe on the Internet and got to work.  Once the ice cream base had been in the ice cream mixer for about twenty minutes, I added some small cut marshmallows and toasted almonds.

I let the ice cream firm up a bit more in the freezer for a few hours before dishing it out, but it was worth the wait.  The ice cream was so good!  It is the best ice I have ever made, and was just what I was looking for in a rocky road ice cream.  The marshmallows are sweet and soft, and the toasted almonds give a nice nutty flavor and crunch.  A superb summer treat! 

04 August 2010

Calvin and Hobbes T-Shirts!

2 remarks
I have turned one of my dreams into reality.  I am the proud owner of some Calvin and Hobbes t-shirts.  Unofficial, mind you, but still Calvin and Hobbes t-shirts nonetheless.  Oh, iron-on transfer paper, where have you been all my life?!  I figured if I could make a Calvin and Hobbes t-shirt for Ari, why not make one for myself?  Plus, after seeing how the iron-on transfers holds up through the wear and tear of a four-year-old, they should hold up for me.

Once I decided to make myself some shirts, the hard part was deciding which images to use.  My Calvin and Hobbes Complete Collection books have a nice array of images besides those seen in the comics.  So, I flipped through the books, and as I found an image I thought I might want to use, I scanned it into the computer.  I decided to start off with two shirts, so I narrowed down my choices and got to printing and ironing.


I couldn't be more happy with the way they tuned out.  I especially like the Stupendous Man t-shirt since the comics with Stupendous Man have always been some of my favorites.  Already, and not surprising, Ari has already placed an order for a Stupendous Man shirt of his own.  I'm glad I bought the larger package of transfer paper.  What fun!

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