Pfeffernusse for College Care Packages

Pfeffernusse cookies for College Care Packages

Pfeffernusse cookies for College Care Packages

Time for the Valentines Day College Care Packages!  I’m always trying out different treats that I think will ship well because my son goes to a school on the East Coast that has a frustrating administrative problem of getting packages to the kids on time.  For some reason they won’t deliver the packages until days after they arrive.  So…I try to find treat recipes that will stay soft and pliable for long periods of time.  These Pfeffernusse were successful, staying fresh and soft in a sealed container for 2 weeks.  Plus, the flavor was awesome!

Yes, Pfeffernusse are Christmas cookies…not Valentines

Pfeffernusse are a traditional German Christmas cookie, featuring molasses and spices.  I meant to make these at Christmas, but alas, time got away from me.  My kids still wanted to taste them and sometimes the chocolate Valentines treats don’t ship that well, so I’m flying in the face of tradition here, both with Christmas cookies and Valentines chocolate.  Sometimes you just have to punt.

Pfeffernusse Cookie Recipe

  • Pfeffernusse for Care Packages

    Pfeffernusse for College Care Packages

    1/2 cup molasses

  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 2 tsp anise extract
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cardamom (grind it fresh if possible)
  • 1 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp freshly ground cloves
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper (can use 2 tsp white pepper if desired)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup powdered sugar for dusting

Directions:

  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine molasses,honey, and butter and cook, stirring frequently.  Cook until creamy and thoroughly mixed together.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  When mixture is cool, stir in the eggs and the anise extract.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients, including the flour, sugars, and spices (but not the powdered sugar).  Add the molasses mixture and stir together thoroughly.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 325° F.  Let the dough thaw slightly so it is pliable enough to roll into balls.  Roll into small balls, about 1 1/4″ in size.  Place on baking sheet, about 1″ apart (they don’t spread much but they do get a little bigger when baked).
  4. Bake for 10-12 minutes, they should be slightly brown on the bottom.  Cool a minute on the sheet and then transfer cookies to wire rack to cool completely.  Use a sifter to dust cookies with powdered sugar.

This recipe is an adaptation of many of the recipes I read on the internet, adding and subtracting based on comments from other cooks.  It turned out fantastic!

 

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Spanish Style Pork Romesco for Slow Carb Diet

m4s0n501
Pork Roast with Romesco Sauce for Slow Carb

Pork Roast with Romesco Sauce for Slow Carb

Romesco is one of the sauces I use a lot to enhance Slow Carb Diet (4-Hr Body) dinners.  It is a tomato and red pepper based sauce from Catalonia, Spain.  In Spain it is traditionally used with fish, poultry or potatoes, but I use it with all kinds of protein dishes and many vegetable dishes.  It imparts a sweet, smoky flavor that takes the boredom out of undressed dishes while still being compliant with the Slow Carb Diet.  This sauce will elevate your main dishes to something special, on any kind of diet or non-diet.

Alternative Romesco Sauce:

The ingredient list is undeniably long – sorry.  This is a dish to make for Sunday supper or when you have time to cook.  Alternatively, you can go here for a recipe to make Romesco sauce ahead of time to use on this and other dishes.

Pork Roast with Spanish-Style Romesco Sauce

Ingredients:

  • Spanish Romesco Sauce Atop Pork Roast

    Spanish Romesco Sauce Atop Pork Roast

    2 Tbsp olive oil

  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp coarse kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp fresh oregano or marjoram
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • pork roast, about 6 pounds
  • 1/2 cup roasted salted almonds (about 1 1/2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs (omit if on SCD)
  • 16-oz jar roasted red peppers, drained
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • pinch cayenne (optional)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup dry Sherry

Directions:

  1. Make the rub by mixing the first 6 ingredients in a small bowl until you have a paste.  Spread the paste (the rub) all over the pork and then place the pork in a roasting pan and let it stand at room temp. for 1 hour. (Alternatively, you can cover roast and chill for 1 day, making sure you let it stand at room temp 1 hour before cooking).
  2. Preheat oven to 425° F.  Roast pork 15 minutes.  Reduce oven temp to 325° F and continue roasting pork until instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part registers 140-145° F (about 1 hour 15 minutes longer).
  3. While pork is roasting make the romesco mix:  Chop almonds in food processor (process together with breadcrumbs if using).  Add roasted peppers, garlic and tomatoes, cayenne and oil and blend mixture until smooth.
  4. When roast is done (140-145°), transfer it to a platter and tent with foil.  Let it rest 20-30 min.  Spoon off any fat from drippings in roasting pan and add the sherry to the pan.  Boil until pan juices are reduced to 1/4 cup (may have to place roasting pan over two burners), stirring up browned bits (about 5-7 minutes).
  5. Scrape pan juices into the mixture in the food processor and blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Slice roast and serve with Romesco sauce.

Because of the pan drippings, Romesco made with this recipe will be richer than the recipe for the refrigerated Romesco sauce from this recipe.

And, if you really want to be fancy use an 8-10-bone heritage pork rib roast and have the chine bone removed.

 

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Chile Colorado – Slow Carb Mexican Goodness

Chile Colorado - Slow Carb

Chile Colorado – Slow Carb

Fall-apart tender chunks of beef  slow-cooked in a Mexican chile sauce commonly known as Chile Colorado (Colorado meaning “red”) makes a rich, savory and complex stew –  perfect for the cooler nights ahead of us as winter eases in.  Although this classic Mexican dish needs several hours simmering on the stove top to give it the depth of flavor it is known for, it is not labor-intensive for the cook.

Attributes of “Authentic” Chile Colorado

The classic version of this chile does not include tomatoes or beans.  It involves tender beef chunks simmered in a sauce made from a blend of reconstituted dried chile peppers , onions, garlic, cumin and oregano.  Chile Colorado gets it name from the deep, reddish-brown color imparted by the flavorful dried chiles that are it’s most important ingredients.  The most common blend of chile peppers includes Anchos (for the chocolatey  flavor), Guajillos, and sometimes mild Pasilla peppers.

There are recipes for Chile Colorado made in a crock pot, or made with canned enchilada sauce, but it really is worth the effort to use the raw ingredients of dried chiles and whole cumin seed to get the special Mexican flavor and aroma of chocolate, spice and smoke.  I’ve based the recipe below on several that I researched online, taking most of my inspiration from MexGrocer out of San Diego

 Chile vs. Chili?

I’m always confused about the correct use and spelling of this word.  There seem to be many accepted versions, but as a general rule of thumb it seems chile with an “e” at the end is the correct Spanish spelling and refers to a capsicum pepper, specifically a spicy pepper grown throughout New Mexico.  Common chile peppers used in Mexican cooking would include Ancho, Jalapeno, Pasilla, Serrano, Chile de Arbol and Guajillo peppers.  Carne Con Chile Colorado literally means “meat with red-colored chile sauce.”

Chili spelled with an “i” at the end is the Americanized version, and usually refers to the dish or the stew rather than the fresh or dried peppers.  You’ll often see the powdered spice mix in the store labeled “Chili Powder”, probably because most Americans make their stew with this powdered form of peppers.

Dishes that feature New Mexico chiles, normally use the “chile” spelling, as in green chile sauce, green chile stew, red chile sauce, green chile enchiladas, and chile colorado.

 Recipe for Chile Colorado

Chile Colorado for Slow Carb Dinner

Chile Colorado for Slow Carb Dinner

This sauce isn’t nearly as daunting as it may sound. You simply buy some dried chiles, re-constitute them in hot water, and blend up a paste using the chiles, water and some spices. Add the chile paste, some sauteed onions and browned stew meat together and simmer for a couple of hours, and you have some seriously  mouth-watering Chile Colorado.

Chile Colorado is usually served with fresh tortillas, but tortillas are not slow-carb compliant so they are left out of this recipe.  If you are eating carbs and want a more authentic Chile Colorado experience, serve with warm, fresh tortillas (and a beer).

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp oil (vegetable oil or grapeseed oil)
  • 1 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 5 dried Ancho chiles
  • 2 oz bag of dried New Mexico chiles
  • 2 dried Pasilla chiles
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil (vegetable or grapeseed)
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp flour (omit if on SCD)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds

Directions:

  1. Heat oil over med-high heat in dutch oven or large iron skillet.  Cook stew meat in oil until browned and then add water.  Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour.
  2. While meat is simmering, make the chile paste.  Place the chile peppers in a medium saucepan and add enough water to completely cover them.  Bring to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat.  Let the chile peppers stand uncovered until softened, about an hour.
  3. Drain the chiles, saving the chile water for later.  Discard the stems and seeds.  Place chiles, 1 cup of the chile water, garlic, red wine vinegar and salt in a blender or food processor and blend on high until it is a smooth puree.  You can add more chile water or some broth from the stew meat if the chile paste seems to need more liquid.
  4. Add pureed chiles to the stew meat and broth. Some people will strain this over a sieve to collect all the skin and any remaining seeds.  Straining is optional.  I just pulled out any of the skins that were not pureed to a paste.
  5. In a medium skillet, saute the onion in the oil until tender and translucent, but not brown. (* add flour at this point if you are using it)  Add oregano and ground cumin to onion mixture and cook for about 1 minute.  Add onion and spice mixture to the beef-chile pot, cover and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Taste and add more salt if needed.

For a really nice pictorial step-by-step on making the Chile Colorado sauce click here:

 

 

 

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Peperonata Topped Burgers – Slow Carb

Pepperonata Topped Hamburger

Peperonata Topped Hamburger

The pepper harvest is over and I’m now in a rush to explore the multitude of recipes that use both sweet and hot peppers.  I’ve roasted some of the peppers, smoked some, frozen some, and stuffed some.  This recipe uses a mix of sweet and hot peppers as a “Peperonata” (an Italian dish of sweet peppers, onion, and garlic slow-cooked in olive oil) to top off a grilled hamburger.  My husband is experimenting with the ghost peppers, but so far they have been way too hot for me.  I grew them, but I think I’ll let someone else eat them and cook with them!

What is Peperonata?

As noted above, Peperonata (peh-peh-roh-NAH-tah) is an Italian vegetable dish of slow-cooked, or stewed bell peppers with onion and garlic.  Of course there are variations and some Italian cooks will add tomatoes, eggplant, or other Italian vegetables.  It’s sometimes served with a frittata, steak, chicken, or over pasta. It is often served cold as part of antipasti.

The simplest way to make Peperonata is to cook 2 cloves of minced garlic and 1/2 sliced onion in 1/4 cup of olive oil over low heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add 5 bell peppers that are quartered and of different colors and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the bell peppers are soft.

Since I have an abundance of different pepper varieties, I wanted to try a mix of hot, mild and sweet peppers.  I also wanted to make it more of a main dish to have with hamburger, as I no longer eat bread or pasta.  Fine Cooking had a recipe in a back issue that looked really good and included the sour notes of capers and anchovies.  The recipe below is an adaptation of a recipe from the 2004 October issue of Fine Cooking.

A Note on Hamburger:

If you want the tastiest burger, buy some with at least 20 percent fat.  If I buy hamburger from the grocery store I look for “chuck” burger that is an 80-20% burger to fat ratio.  My mom cooked in a time when all fat was considered bad and meat was to be cooked a long time for safety, so she will make burgers with very lean meat and cook them to well done.  There is an abundance of scientific studies out there about good fats/bad fats/animal fats/etc.  It is really difficult to make good health decisions because for every study that tells you about a particular nutritional fact, there is a study available that will refute that fact.  Whatever your sentiments are about fat, I can tell you one thing……the burger has a whole lot more flavor with more fat in it.

Peperonata Topped Hamburgers:

(adapted from a recipe in 2004 issue of Fine Cooking)

Pepperonata Saute

Peperonata Saute

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 to 1/2  cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 to 2 lbs assorted peppers (mostly sweet peppers), chopped
  • 1 cup roughly chopped onion
  • 1/2 lb. sliced mushrooms, any kind you like
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup pitted chopped Kalamata olives
  • 1/4 cup pitted chopped green olives
  • 3 Tbsp capers, drained and chopped
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp anchovy paste or 2 anchovies, minced
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in a large (12-inch) skillet or saute pan over high heat.
  2. Add the peppers and onions to the pan and saute, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.  Then add the mushrooms and saute for another 5 minutes, or until vegetables start to brown.   **NOTE:  if you want to take the time to roast peppers and remove skins, it does make this dish better, particularly if you are using a lot of bell peppers with thick skin.  I usually just chop fresh peppers with skins on because I’m always short of time.  It’s still really good.
  3. Click here for a thorough explanation of how to roast peppers.
  4. Lower the heat to medium and continue cooking until the onions are translucent and the peppers and mushrooms are extremely soft (about another 10- 15 minutes).  Add the garlic and saute quickly being careful not to burn the garlic (only needs about 30 seconds).
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the olives, capers, vinegar, and anchovies. Stir in more olive oil to make the peperonata moist and oily.
  6. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a little more vinegar if needed.  Serve over a hamburger, grilled to medium rare (or to your own taste).
  7. Peperonata can be refrigerated and served later with chicken, on top of baguette toasts, or as an antipasti.
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Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars

Always a decision this time of the year as to which pumpkin bars to make – silky pumpkin cheesecake bars, pumpkin bars with a crunchy oat crust, pumpkin bars with a maple sugar streusel topping, and the list goes on.  I’m starting the pumpkin bar season off with the pumpkin cream cheese bars, the ultimate in comfort foods as the weather turns cool on us.

Although we do grow a lot of different varieties of pumpkin and squash, I’ve found the canned pumpkin to be the go-to alternative for bars.  After adding the amount of sugar and spices that pumpkin bars and cakes call for, you can’t really distinguish the nuances of which variety of pumpkin you use, and the canned pumpkin is just as nutritional considering the other ingredients that go in bars.  We are, after all, making a sweet treat (for cheat day or otherwise) and sometimes it’s difficult to justify the prep work required of fresh pumpkins for something with this much sugar.

To me it is similar to my earlier years as a bartender when customers would order a really expensive bourbon and coke.  The sweetness of the coke was so overpowering I’m sure they could not tell the difference between that expensive high-end bourbon and the less expensive house bourbon.  Now if they order bourbon on the rocks or with a splash of something, that’s a different story.

So, I save the heirloom varieties of pumpkin and squash for meals where I can truly savor the differences in their nuttiness and sweetness.  A popular blog called  www.thekitchen.com did an interesting post on what is actually in the canned pumpkin, and it turns out that most canned pumpkin also includes some varieties of squash.  They suggest Libbys brand if you want 100% pumpkin.

See thekitchen’s full post on canned pumpkin by clicking here.  Please let me know in the comments if you have had a different experience with the type of pumpkin you use in bars.  I would love to know if you think I’m off-base here.

So, the recipe…..

Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bars:

(adapted from an old Star Tribune recipe for pumpkin bars)

 

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Bars (top view)

Pumpkin and Cream Cheese Bars (top view)

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 1 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 (15-oz) can pumpkin (Libbys is 100% pumpkin)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

Ingredients for Cream Cheese Frosting:

  • 6 ox cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 6 Tbsp butter, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 cups powdered sugar

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour (or spray with cooking oil spray) a 10 x 15-inch baking pan.  If you use a more common 9 x 13-inch pan, you will have to cook it longer or the middle will not get done.  Alternatively you could only pour in 3/4 of the batter into the 9 x 13 and use a muffin tin or small baking pan for the rest.
  2.  In a large mixing bowl, using a mixer on medium speed, beat together the sugar and oil and pumpkin until creamy (about 1 min). Beat in eggs until well combined – about 2 minutes.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and all of the spices. Add these dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and mix at low speed until thoroughly combined and the batter is smooth.
  4. Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 35 minutes, until evenly golden and a toothpick or knife inserted into the middle of the pan comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs attached.  Let cool completely (about 1 1/2 hour) before frosting.
  5. Using a stand mixer, beat together cream cheese, butter, milk and vanilla.  Gradually beat in powdered sugar, a little at a time, until mixture is smooth.  Spread frosting over completely cooled bars.
  6. Chill or freeze before cutting into bars.  Makes 2-3 dozen bars (depending on how large you cut them).
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