Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cast-Iron Skillet S'mores

Lately, I’ve been engrossed in Mildred Kalish’s memoir, “Little Heathens: Hard Times and High Spirits on an Iowa Farm during the GreatDepression.”

It’s a fascinating book that details a pioneering way of life that is long gone for most of us. The recounted pleasure of “running barefoot through the fields, as free and wild as they dared” sounds a bit magical and rather enticing to a town kid-turned-farmwife.

But when I stop and think about it, running barefoot through the fields sounds downright painful and not at all enjoyable, darn it all!

I’d love to imagine myself as a tough pioneer woman, cast iron skillet in hand, cooking over the fire, living the rustic, unrefined life. But let’s be honest: In the last two years, the closest I’ve gotten to the wilderness are the times I encountered a mountain lion and a rabid skunk on our farm, and that was purely accidental.

(They are good stories, however. The former, I was helping my husband fence when a mountain lion was scared out of an abandoned building nearby. My town kid response was to run in circles – literally –, sprint toward the trees, then finally redirect myself to safety in the tractor. I’ve since been informed that this is not the proper response. The latter, I was chased by a rabid skunk and fell headfirst in the snow as I tried to escape. I cannot make these things up.)

So, in the spirit of pioneering but considering the reality of my upbringing, I have learned to content myself with cooking great food in my cast iron skillet, but staying in the comfort (and safety) of my own home.

Now, cast iron skillets are wonderful tools, whether you are made for the great outdoors or not. They are inexpensive, heavy-duty and get better over time as they become seasoned (seasoning refers to the oil baked on that creates the easy release of food, not the spices you use). You can use cast iron skillets on induction, ceramic, electric and gas cooktops, in the oven, on the grill, and over the campfire, making them super versatile.

Caring for a cast iron skillet seems to be a common question among new owners. To clean, simply wash with hot water, dry immediately and rub with a light coat of cooking oil to restore the sheen, protect it from moisture and keep it seasoned. While not using soap can be concerning to some, the instructions by Lodge – a well-known cast iron manufacturer – note that its cookware hits 400 degrees in four minutes on medium heat, and becomes sterile at 212 degrees, making soap unnecessary. If it is still a concern, the company recommends washing with mild soapy water and drying and oiling immediately.

While I really don’t foresee myself cooking over a campfire in the wilderness any time soon, I do relish the idea of making homemade s’mores, so when a favorite former teacher of mine shared this recipe for s’mores dip on Facebook, I had to try it out. It takes only a few minutes, yet looks impressive. I used a mix of leftover dark and milk chocolate chips for the base, and cut up jumbo marshmallows for the top. Stick it in the oven for a few minutes at 400 degrees to get the chocolate melting, then broil the top to get that beautiful roasted golden brown look (careful, you don’t want it to burn). Serve with graham crackers, and if you’re like me, pretend you’re in the wilderness. I like to think of it as a taste of frontier living from the comfort of your porch. Enjoy!


Cast Iron Skillet S’mores
Ingredients
Chocolate chips (enough to cover the bottom of the skillet)
Jumbo marshmallows, cut in half
Graham crackers


Directions
Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Cover bottom of skillet with chocolate chips. Using kitchen scissors, cut each marshmallow in half lengthwise, then place on top of chocolate chips smooth side up. Place entire skillet in oven for three minutes, then broil for a minute or two until tops of marshmallows are golden brown. Remove and serve immediately with graham crackers. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

I meant to post this last spring, when it was published in the Argus Leader, but being the forgetful sort, didn't get it done. But when someone asked about asparagus recipes today, I realized I had never published it- and this is too good to pass up! So, imagine this is late spring, and we are at the peak time for asparagus harvesting. Thanks for understanding, fellow foodies. :)

I was particularly excited to find this recipe for prosciutto-wrapped asparagus, as it not only involves my favorite vegetable, but it requires minimal ingredients and prep time. After all, who wants to spend hours in the kitchen when the sun has finally revealed itself again? But never fear- this hors d'oeuvre stands out despite – or perhaps because of – its simplicity. The prosciutto (a thinly-sliced, dry-cured Italian ham) adds richness and a bit of salt to the grassy taste of asparagus. The pan-seared meat develops a nice crust which complements the vibrant green of the asparagus spears. No wilted, colorless asparagus in this kitchen! Trust me- this is finger food that you wouldn’t dare pass up.

Best of all, it makes for a quick-and-easy party appetizer, and can be assembled in advance and fried just a few minutes before guests arrive. For best results, invest in high-quality prosciutto from your local deli and use fresh asparagus when it’s in season.

To pick out the best asparagus in the grocery store, look for firm stalks (not limp) with a bright green or violet-green color. The tips of the asparagus should be tightly closed. To store, refrigerate immediately and keep stalks moist by either trimming the stems and wrapping in a damp paper towel, or standing up in a jar with water. To cook, simply rinse and snap off the bottom of the spear, which may be woody or tough.

If you’re scouting for fresh asparagus, look for it in the early spring near ditches, fences or riverbeds where there is plenty of moisture nearby. Mature asparagus resembles a small tree or fern, with thin green branches. Look around the plant for thick stems of asparagus- that’s what you want to eat! Just remember your manners and ask before you pick if you are on someone’s land (a smile and a handshake go a long way!)


Prosciutto-Wrapped Asparagus

Ingredients
12 asparagus spears
6 prosciutto slices
Butter

Directions
Cut or snap woody ends off of washed asparagus spears. Cut prosciutto strips into two halves, going lengthways, so you end up with 12 strips.

Place a prosciutto strip on a chopping board at a 45 degree angle. Place one of the asparagus spears on top of the meat, perpendicular to it. The tip of the asparagus should be lined up with the bottom of the prosciutto strip. Wrap the bottom end of prosciutto over the asparagus and, holding the meat tight, start rolling the asparagus up.

Heat some butter in a large, flat frying pan to sizzling hot. Fry wrapped asparagus spears for 1-2 minutes on each side or until prosciutto is brown and crispy. Do it in batches if preparing more asparagus than can fit in a pan.

Serve immediately and enjoy!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Soft Sugar Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

Believe it or not, I've only made sugar cookies once before since I've been a kid- and that was in 2010. And it wasn't exactly a huge success.

I know, I know. Aren't basic sugar cookies something every decent cook knows how to make? Oddly enough, I've just never felt compelled to whip up a batch. But when I saw these beautiful soft sugar cookies with rosette cream cheese frosting on Pinterest, I melted. Only days before my niece's first birthday, I excitedly texted my sister and told her that I was bringing pink frosted cookies, and I wasn't going to take no for an answer. (Luckily, she acquiesced and didn't make me beg. What a gal.)

This recipe makes for soft, thick, fluffy sugar cookies, thanks to the half cup of sour cream in the dough. Any time I see sour cream in a baked goods recipe (like my favorite cupcake recipe), I get excited. Soft, uber-moist buttery sugar cookies... who can resist? I certainly can't (and didn't).

To make the frosted rosettes, I used a large Ateco open star tip, and used two different pink gel icings (separately, not together)- Wilton Dusty Rose and Wilton pink. I visited I Am Baker's blog to get some pointers on making the rosettes, and they were super easy to pull off. Just start in the middle, then slowly move your open star tip in a circle around the center point. Voila! Easy peasy.

Hope your week is off to a fabulous start!



What a cutie!
Soft Sugar Cookies
Ingredients
3 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. butter, softened
1/4 c. shortening
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp. lemon or vanilla extract
1/2 c. sour cream

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment and set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.

Cream together the butter, shortening and sugar until light. Stir in the egg, extract, sour cream and dry ingredients.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and roll 1/4" thick. Cut using your desired shape. Place on the baking tray and cook for 10 minutes or until the edges are just lightly browning.

Source: http://www.bloglovin.com/viewer?post=2332322065&group=0&frame_type=a&blog=3786372&frame=1&click=0&user=0


Cream Cheese Frosting
Ingredients
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
5 Tbsp. soft butter
2 tsp. vanilla
3 1/2 c. powdered sugar, sifted

Directions
Beat together cream cheese and butter. Sift in 3 1/2 c. powdered sugar and add two teaspoons vanilla; mix until you reach your desired consistency.

Source: Modified slightly from http://www.bloglovin.com/viewer?post=2332322065&group=0&frame_type=a&blog=3786372&frame=1&click=0&user=0


Friday, May 30, 2014

Raspberry Mousse in Chocolate Cups

As I'm sure I've told you plenty of times, I wish I had a real love for gardening. Truly! I grew up with a wonderful garden at home, chock-full of raspberries, strawberries, watermelon, squash, rhubarb, tomatoes, peppers... of course, back then, I didn't understand what all the fuss was about. Homegrown organic vegetables? No thanks. I was much more intrigued by the Hostess cupcakes my friend's mom packed in her lunch every day. Talk about jealousy.

Now that I'm older and wiser, I'm pining over fresh vegetables. I know, I know, I live on a farm now, right? Homegrown produce should be easy. But I just can't force myself to weed every night, which means every year my garden ends up one hot mess (literally). Luckily, we have a decent farmer's market nearby, and my Dad still gardens half an hour away from my house. So for now, I'm throwing in the towel on gardening and relying on good ol' Dad.

Luckily for me, I was able to treat my parents to this delightful recipe for raspberry mousse in chocolate cups for Mother's Day, so I think they will allow me to invade their garden so long as I continue to make them homemade treats. The mousse tasted amazing using store-bought raspberries, so I can't WAIT until they are straight from Dad's garden. It's incredibly fresh tasting, without being too sweet or too tart. It's super simple to pull together, and looks gorgeous in a chocolate cup (though it is equally delicious eaten with a spoon straight out of the mixing bowl. Trust me, I know.)

Now, I know you can make your own chocolate cups, but sometimes skipping a few steps is worth it. In my case, using pre-made chocolate cups allowed me to clean my bathrooms and wash my floors (and keep my sanity), so definitely worth it. I bought these adorable cups with pre-made white and dark chocolate curls at Brix in Omaha. When you're in a pinch, they work wonderfully. If you want to learn how to make the chocolate cups (and someday I will), visit Jessie's blog.

Have a wonderful weekend! Make something delicious!



Raspberry Mousse in Chocolate Cups
Ingredients
1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp. unflavored gelatin
1/4 c. cold water
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 c. fresh raspberries

Directions
Puree the raspberries in a food processor or blender. Strain the puree and dispense with the seeds. Add the puree to a large bowl, stir in the sugar and lemon juice and set aside.

Add cold water to a small saucepan and sprinkle gelatin over the top. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir over low heat until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Stir into the raspberry mixture, then chill for 1 hour or until slightly thickened.

Beat the raspberry mixture on high speed until foamy. Gradually add in the heavy cream, and beat until thickened- about two minutes.

Spoon the raspberry mixture into the chocolate cups, and chill for 1-2 hours or until set. (Note: If you have extra mousse left over, you can chill the cups for about 30 minutes and then add another tablespoon of mousse on top to create another layer. After adding, continue chilling cups until set.) Garnish with a raspberry and/or chocolate curls on top. Enjoy!

Makes 8 cups.

Source: http://jessienextdoor.com/2012/05/31/chocolate-cups-with-raspberry-mousse/, originally inspired by/adapted from Giada De Laurentiis and Taste of Home

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Broiled Parmesan Tilapia

It's summer and this week is wickedly hot in South Dakota. You really don't want to spend a long time in the kitchen, do you?

Didn't think so. Ten minutes or less? I'll take it.

Enjoy! :)



Broiled Parmesan Tilapia
Ingredients
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. and 1 1/2 tsp. reduced-fat mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/8 tsp. dried basil
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. onion powder
1/8 tsp. celery seed
1 lb. tilipia fillets

Directions
Preheat broiler. Cover a broiling pan or line pan with aluminum foil.

In a small bowl, mix together the Parmesan cheese, butter, mayo and lemon juice. Season with dried basil, pepper, onion powder and celery salt. Mix well and set aside.

Arrange fillets in a single layer on the prepared pan. Broil a few inches from the heat for 2-3 minutes. Flip the fillets and broil for a couple more minutes. Remove fillets from oven and cover with Parmesan cheese mixture on the top side. Broil for two more minutes or until topping is browned and fish flakes easily with a fork. Do not overcook fish.

Source: http://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=75983

Friday, May 9, 2014

Martha Stewart's Scalloped Potatoes

First, since it's a beeeeauuutiful day, I will post the rare farm selfie that Dan lets me snap.


Nothing like springtime on the farm to put you in a wonderful mood. We've got some rain, the calves are happy and healthy and playing tag in their pen, and my leaves in the flower beds are finally raked up from last fall. Can I get a hallelujah?

I've been on a bit of a baking kick lately, which is weird for me, but I'm going with it. That means I've been turning over cooking duties to Dan more often than not, which is fine with me, because the man can cook. Just don't tell him I said so, because he tends to get an awfully big head in the kitchen.

But I have whipped up a few things of note, particularly this scalloped potato recipe courtesy of Martha Stewart. Dan actually said they are the best. scalloped. potatoes. he's. ever. tasted.

Knowing how good of a cook his mom is, I take that as quite the compliment!

I think the key here is slicing the potatoes paper thin and uniform (we used a mandolin) and using Gruyere cheese, which gives it such a distinctive flavor. You could also get fancy and add some sauteed onion, parsley, some Parmesan, ham or bacon, but this is such a simple, savory recipe that it honestly doesn't need any of the extras. (But seriously, you can never have too much bacon).

We used whole milk because that's what we had on hand, which I'm sure only enhanced the dish and made it that much creamier. If you use skim or 2%, let me know how it turns out in the comments below!

Have a great day!



Martha Stewart's Scalloped Potatoes
Ingredients
3 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced paper thin
2 1/2 c. milk
1 c. heavy cream
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened
5 oz. Gruyere cheese, shredded
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees with a rack set in the lower third of the oven. Combine sliced potatoes and milk in a large saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to low; cover and simmer until potatoes are just tender, about 3 minutes.

Place a colander over a large bowl and drain potatoes, reserving milk. Add heavy cream to milk and stir to combine.

Rub a 2 1/2-quart oval baking dish with garlic and 1 Tbsp. butter. Arrange sliced potatoes, sprinkling cheese between the layers, in the baking dish; season with salt and pepper. Dot with remaining 2 Tbsp. butter and pour reserved cooking milk and cream mixture over.

Transfer baking dish to oven and bake until cheese becomes deep golden brown and milk has reduced and thickened, 80-90 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Source:  http://www.marthastewart.com/1057199/scalloped-potatoes?xsc=soc_pin_2014_3_17_holiday_EasterRecipes_I__&crlt.pid=camp.4zpR5gmuo8Xe


Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cherry Hand Pies

We’re officially well into spring, which means we can (hopefully) finally tuck away the memories of frost and frigidity for a few seasons. And if you ask me, there’s no better way to forget a cold Midwestern winter than by planning a sunny summer picnic.

There are countless people more qualified than myself to preach about the pleasures of picnicking. In fact, I’ve been on exactly one picnic in my life, an ill-conceived notion of mine that involved dragging my husband out to our pasture for a sunset anniversary dinner. Between the bugs, cow pies and the overly-friendly heifer blissfully ignorant of the phrase “three’s a crowd,” this town kid now knows that pasture picnics may not be as romantic as they sound.

Romantic, right?


Not so romantic.
 But that doesn’t mean picnicking on the farm must end for me. No, I remain convinced that scenic picnics on patchwork quilts are in my future this summer, which is why I decided to find an easy-to-make recipe like these homemade cherry hand pies. Delicious and versatile, these portable pies are sure to perk up any summer excursion you have planned.

Not a fan of cherry? No problem- any recipe you have for pie filling will work. In fact, if you really want to cut corners, canned pie filling could easily be substituted for the cherry filling in the recipe below. If you’ve got the 10 minutes it takes to create the homemade filling, however, I highly recommend it. I used frozen red tart cherries, since fresh cherries are not yet in season, and they worked beautifully.

Prefer savory over sweet? Fill your hand pie with meat and cheese, and you’ve got a lovely meal to go. Take your favorite flavors– I’m thinking brie, honey and toasted almonds might make a wonderful combination – and create your own filling based on your personal preferences.

The recipe recommends Dufour classic puff pastry dough for its all-butter taste, but if your grocery store doesn’t offer Dufour, the more easily-accessible Pepperidge Farm puff pastry works perfectly fine. Remember, puff pastry is not the same as phyllo dough, although they are often next to each other in the freezer case and look similar. For best results, work with puff pastry when the dough is cold. Store whatever you are not using at the moment in the refrigerator, not the counter, and if your dough becomes difficult to work with, return to the refrigerator or freezer for a few minutes until cold.

Try adding a bit of lemon or orange juice and zest to brighten the flavor of the cherry pie filling, and experiment with different seasonal fruits – think blueberries, raspberries, strawberries or blackberries. Don’t be afraid to make generous slits on top of the pies- mine were just under an inch wide and narrowed significantly once the puff pastry rose. A little juice spilling out of the pie makes for mouth-watering presentation.

To top it off, sprinkle liberally with raw sugar, also known as turbinado sugar, which is often used for extra crunch and visual appeal on baked goods. Dust lightly when cool with powdered sugar for extra sweet, and wrap in butcher paper and twine for a rustic, irresistible treat.




Cherry Hand Pies
Ingredients
1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 cups fresh cherries, stemmed and pitted, or about 12 ounces frozen pitted cherries, unthawed
2/3 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1 14-ounce package all-butter puff pastry (preferably Dufour), thawed in refrigerator
Flour (for dusting)
1 large egg white
1 1/2 teaspoons raw sugar

Directions
Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons cold water in a small bowl to blend. Combine fresh or frozen cherries and next 4 ingredients in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes. Add cornstarch mixture; bring to a boil, stirring often.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.

Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a rectangle. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into four rectangles. Whisk egg white and 1 tablespoon water in another small bowl for egg wash.

Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, place on a work surface and brush edges with egg wash. Scoop 3 tablespoons cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meet, forming a packet.
Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Brush tops with egg wash, then sprinkle with raw sugar. Chill for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. Can be made 1 day ahead. Let stand at room temperature.


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