Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Summer Lunch Program >> Pigs in Pretzels

Summer Lunch Program

a semi-sporadic series
fun lunchtime menus

Just In Time For Summer Vacation

Pigs in Pretzels, or Dunkin' Dogs

1-1/4  Cups  Warm Water
1  Tablespoon PLUS 1/4  teaspoon  Yeast
3-3/4  Cups  Flour
3/4  Cup  PLUS  2  Tablespoons  Powdered Sugar
1-1/2  teaspoons  Salt
2  teaspoons  Vegetable Oil

Soda Bath:
4  Cups  Warm Water
1/2  Cup  Baking Soda

Hot Dogs
Coarse Salt
1-2  Tablespoons  Cold Butter

In a small bowl, combine the Warm Water and Yeast; set aside.

Stir together the Flour, Powdered Sugar, and Salt in mixer work bowl.

Gently mix the Oil into the Warm Water and Yeast; slowly stir into the Flour mixture.  Stir, using the mixer's dough hook.  Knead in mixer on slow (#2 for Kitchen Aid) for 5 minutes.  Let rise, covered, until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Preheat over to 400*.  Combine Water and Baking Soda in a deep pan and heat over medium-high.  Divide dough into equal portions.  (12 portions if you are using bun-length hot dogs, 16 portions for traditional-size hot dogs.)  Roll dough into long ropes, about 9-10 inches.  Working one rope at a time, dip the pretzel ropes into the boiling Soda Water; boil about 30 seconds.  Remove from water, let drip dry on paper towel.  Wrap pretzel rope around a hot dog; place on a greased baking sheet and sprinkle with coarse salt.  Repeat with remaining pretzel ropes and hot dogs.  Bake at 400* for about 10-12 minutes, or until dough is cooked through.  Rub the hot Pretzel Piggies with Cold Butter.  Serve warm, with Ketchup and Mustard.

Many, many thanks to my sister for suggesting this to me.  I think she knows how I hate to drag out the same old sandwich ingredients day after day after day.  I tripled this dough recipe and used 3 12-count packages of bun-length beef hot dogs from Costco.  The majority of these went into the freezer.  When I need something quick for lunch, we'll just do a quick defrost in the microwave and (maybe) toast them in the oven for about 10 minutes--if we're not in too big of a hurry, that is.

Most of the 'Dogs looked lovely.
But some of them did turn out a little wonky:

Alternately, of course, you CAN use this dough to make Hot Pretzels.  Just divide the dough into 8 portions and twist the ropes into pretzel shapes before dipping in the Soda Water.  Bake at 425* for about 8 minutes.  Rub the baked Pretzels with the Cold Butter, then sprinkle with a mixture of 1/2 Cup Sugar and 2 teaspoons Cinnamon.  Better than Auntie Anne's!

Homemade Soft Pretzel recipe from Serving One Another cookbook, page 19.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Fake It >> Lemonade, Simply

This brand of Lemonade is Simply the best.

It also seems to be one of the fastest growing brands of refrigerated Lemonade in the markets.

It's price seems to be growing, too.

When I first tasted this delicious Lemonade four years ago a carafe cost about $1.99.  Now, if I'm lucky and purchase it on sale, it is about $2.50 for a carafe.

Thankfully the Simply company has made this very simple to clone.

Here is how I did it:  The second line on the back label reads "11% Lemon Juice" and the Sugar content per serving is listed as10%.  The Ingredient List states that this Lemonade contains Pure Filtered Water, Natural Sugar, Lemon Juice, and Natural Flavors.

It becomes just a matter of doing the math:  if I want One Gallon of Lemonade (which is equal to 128 fluid ounces), then I will need 14.08 ounces of Lemon Juice (128 X .11 = 14.08).  This translates to 1-3/4 Cups plus 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice.  I will also need 10% Sugar, which is 12.8 ounces and equals to 1-3/4 Cups Sugar, plus a teaspoon or two added at the end to adjust the sweetness to taste.  Place the Lemon Juice and the Sugar in the one-gallon pitcher and fill with Water to the one-gallon mark.  Stir well and serve cold. 

Fake It  >>  Simply Lemonade

In a One-Gallon Pitcher place

1-3/4  Cups  PLUS  2  Tablespoons  Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice  (Meyer Lemon Preferred, about 8 Lemons)
1-3/4  Cups  Sugar

Fill Pitcher to the one-gallon mark with Cold Water.
Stir well and serve cold.

Makes One Gallon.

A couple of things you may have noticed: one, my Lemonade is darker than the store-bought.  I used my Meyer Lemons, which have a very sweet, but very dark juice.  Two: I didn't need to add any 'Natural Flavors'.  These 'flavors' happen to be what the citrus juice industry call "flavor packs" and are flavors added back to the pasteurised juices to replace the true flavors which are lost during the pasteurization process.  This is why different brands of Orange Juice (which may use the same variety of oranges) taste different.  Each company uses a slightly different 'flavor pack' and will vary the flavor of the finished product to suit the target market.  Orange Juice, for instance, will taste different in South America than it does here in the USA, even though it may be made by the same manufacturer.  If you want more information, google "Flavor Packs".  It'll be enough to make you never want to buy Citrus juice again.

If you play around with converting this to use alternate sugar substitutes (Stevia, Agave, or something else) would you please leave me a comment and let me know what ratios/ammounts you used?  I haven't taken the time to investigate these and would be interested in your input.  Thanks!

Perfected by the Author in her own Test Kitchen.  Approved by her Family.  Enjoyed by You.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Country-Fried Pork Loin with Gravy

Country-Fried Pork Loin
with Gravy

And very good Gravy it is, too!

T and I were cracking up at the children because they rarely want Gravy on anything and there they were, slathering on the Gravy until their dinner was just swimming in it.

And that is a high compliment, indeed!

Prep the Pork Loin first, then prepare the Gravy.  Let the Gravy simmer and thicken while you fry the Pork so it is all hot and crisp and ready to eat at the same time.

2  Cups  Flour
1/2  Cup  Cornstarch
2  teaspoons  Garlic Powder
2  teaspoons  Onion Powder
1  teaspoon  Salt
2  teaspoons  Black Pepper
1 1/2  teaspoons  Baking Powder
1/4  teaspoon  Cayenne Pepper
1/2  Cup  Whole Milk, divided
2  large  Eggs
1 lb  Pork Tenderloin, trimmed and cut crosswise into 4 pieces
1  Cup  Peanut or Vegetable Oil, for frying

3  Tablespoons  Butter
1/4  Cup  finely chopped Onion
3  Tablespoons  Flour
1  Garlic Clove, minced
1  teaspoon  Sage
1/2  teaspoon  Paprika
2  Cups  low-sodium Chicken Broth
1  Cup  Whole Milk
4  teaspoons  Worcestershire Sauce
Black Pepper

For the Pork Loin:
Combine dry ingredients.  Transfer 1 Cup seasoned Flour to a shallow dish (a pie plate works great).  In another shallow dish, combine 6 Tablespoons Milk and the Eggs.  Stir the remaining 2 Tablespoons Milk into the remaining seasoned Flour; rub with fingers until mixture resembles coarse meal, and transfer to third shallow dish.

Pat the Pork dry with paper towels and season with Salt and Pepper.  Lightly score both uncut sides of Pork pieces in a 1/4-inch crosshatch pattern.  Working 1 piece at a time, coat Pork lightly in dry seasoned Flour.  Place Pork between two sheets of plastic wrap and pound to 1/4-inch thickness; remove plastic wrap.  Coat Pork again in dry seasoned Flour, dip into Egg mixture, and dredge in Milk & Flour mixture, pressing firmly to adhere.  Arrange Pork on wire rack set inside rimmed baking sheet and refrigerate 15 minutes or up to 4 hours.

For the Gravy:
Melt Butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.  Add Onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Stir in Flour, Garlic, Sage, and Paprika, and cook, whisking constantly, until golden and fragrant, about 1 minute.  Slowly whisk in Broth and Milk and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Off heat, stir in Worcestershire Sauce and season with Salt and Black Pepper to taste.  Cover and set aside.  Gravy can be prepared ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

To fry the Pork Loin:
Adjust your oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 200*.  Warm the Gravy over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally.
Heat 1 Cup Oil in 12-inch skillet over medium-heat until shimmering.  Fry two pieces of Pork Loin until deep golden brown and crisp, 2 to 3 minutes per side.  Drain on clean wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet and keep warm in oven.  Fry remaining Pork Loin.  Serve this fork-tender Pork Loin with Gravy.

I bought a 2-lb Pork Tenderloin and used all of it for this.  The amounts given for the Flour and Egg mixtures was sufficient to coat all the meat.  My only suggestion would be to change out your Oil after frying half the meat; the crumbs that fell off started to burn and made the last few pieces super dark.

I served this with Potatoes Hashed in Cream.  To be honest, I wasn't impressed with that recipe: my potatoes stuck and burned really bad and didn't crisp up like the photo showed. (And yes, I did use a non-stick skillet.)   I'll give that recipe here, though, and maybe you'll have better luck with it than I did.  In defence of the recipe, it was easy and had only four ingredients, and the children gobbled it up.  Second Son even wanted the leftover Potatoes for breakfast the next day.

Potatoes Hashed in Cream

2-1/2  pounds  Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1  Cup  Heavy Cream
Black Pepper

Bring Potatoes, Cream, and 1-1/4 teaspoons Salt to boil in 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until nearly tender, about 10 minutes.

Remove lid, increase heat to medium-high, and cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid evaporates and potatoes are well browned, 15 to 20 minutes.  Season with Salt and Black Pepper to taste, and serve.

Both recipes are from Cook's Country magazine, February/March 2012.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Cherry Grunt

I'm always fascinated by Old-Fashioned recipes and when this showed up in my most recent issue of Cook's Country I knew I had to try it for several reasons: it uses a Slow-Cooker, it's Cherry Harvest right now (and I have waaay too many frozen Cherries from last year still in the freezer), and being a dessert named Cherry Grunt, well, ya gotta wonder what it tastes like!

Cherry Grunt

Prep:  10 minutes
Cook:  4 Hours on Low
Serves:  4 to 6

2-1/4  pounds  Frozen Sweet Cherries
2  Cups  Flour, divided
1  Cup  plus  3  Tablespoons  Sugar, divided three ways
1  Tablespoon  Lemon Juice
1-1/4  teaspoons  Cinnamon, divided
1  teaspoon  Almond Extract
1  Tablespoon  Baking Powder
1/2  teaspoon  Salt
1/2  Cup  plus  2 Tablespoons  Milk
1/4  Cup  Butter, melted and cooled

Combine frozen Cherries, 1/4 Cup Flour, 1 Cup Sugar, Lemon Juice, 1 teaspoon Cinnamon, and Almond Extract in a microwavable bowl.  Microwave, uncovered, until Cherries begin to release their liquid, about 5 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.  Stir well to redistribute the Cherry juices.  Transfer mixture to a greased slow cooker and spread into an even layer.

In another bowl, combine the remaining Flour, 2 Tablespoon Sugar, Baking Powder, and Salt.  Stir in Milk and Butter until combined.  In a small bowl, combine remaining 1 Tablespoon Sugar and remaining 1/4-teaspoon Cinnamon.

Using a greased 1/4-cup measure, drop 8 dumplings around the perimeter of the slow cooker on top of the Cherry mixture, leaving center empty.  Sprinkle the dumplings with the Cinnamon-Sugar mixture.  Cover and cook on low until a toothpick inserted in center of dumplings comes out clean, about 4 hours.  Serve with Heavy Whipping Cream or Vanilla Ice Cream.

I only made 6 larger dumplings and they were completely done in 4 hours.  If you make 8 smaller dumplings, they may be done sooner.  Also--be careful eating this straight from the slow cooker--it is VERY HOT!!  Hmm.... maybe THAT'S why you put Ice Cream on top!

And now a confession:  I didn't actually try any of this.  I don't like Cherries.  But everyone else here said it was very good.  I'm eager to try this with Blueberries or Boysenberries.  Doesn't that sound yummy!

From Cook's Country magazine, June/July 2012

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Avocado & Grilled Corn Salsa

Well, here it is:  Summer Vacation!

School got out on Thursday and it's full steam ahead with the Summer-time work and play.  This means that weeding the Front Flowerbeds and putting out pre-emergent and snail bait finally got done yesterday--now that I have two strong, healthy young backs to do the grunt work.

Oh, don't worry, I was out there, too.  I did the hoeing and they did the down-on-hands-and-knees work.  Then they mowed the yard for me.

Now those strong young backs are out in the field with Daddy and the Little Ones are napping.
Ahhh....  a piece of peace and quiet!

That means I can sit down and do several blog posts all at once.

No fears, I won't post them ALL today.  I'll just schedule them to post every few days.  So if your inbox gets bombarded with emails at 2:37 am, you'll know why.  And you'll know that I'm peacefully snoozing away while my computer does the posting work.

The first post will be

Avocado & Grilled Corn Salsa

I first tasted this at my sister-in-laws a few years back.  I think it was on the Fourth of July.  I never did get her recipe, so I've come up with my own variation.  I'm just going to list what I put in mine and you can adjust to your taste.  My amounts made about two cups.  I fixed it for Sunday Dinner and served it over some Mahi-Mahi I seasoned with Salt, Black Pepper, Cumin and Chipotle Chile Powder and baked in the oven.

For about 2 cups of Salsa I used:

1  Avocado
1/2  Cup  Grilled Corn--approximately  I used frozen Grilled Corn from Trader Joe's--just threw in what looked right.  I did not thaw it.
1/4  diced  Jalapeno
1  diced  Tomato
Juice from  1/2 of a  Lime
Salt & Pepper
Cilantro -- which is not pictured, because I used it all on Sunday and didn't have enough when I made this for my leftovers on Monday...

Mix all together and serve over Fresh Fish or with Tortilla Chips.  So yummy!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spicy Skirt Steak with Avocado Dipping Sauce

Spicy Skirt Steak
Avocado Dipping Sauce

Prep:  30 minutes
Grill:  5-10 minutes
Stand:  20 minutes
Serves:  6

Spice Rub
2  teaspoons  Salt
1  teaspoon  Dry Mustard
1  teaspoon  Chipotle Chile Powder
1/2  teaspoon  Black Pepper
1/2  teaspoon  Coriander
1/2  teaspoon  Cumin

2  lbs  Skirt Steak, trimmed of excess fat  If Skirt Steak is unavailable, use Flank Steak
Olive Oil

In a small bowl mix Spice Rub ingredients together; set aside.  Cut steak into foot-long pieces, if needed, to make them easier to handle on the grill.  Lightly brush Steak on all all sides with Olive Oil; season evenly with the Spice Rub.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.  (During this 30 minutes, prepare the Avocado Dipping Sauce.)

Avocado Dipping Sauce
3 inches of  English Cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
1  medium  Avocado, peeled and pitted
1/4  Cup  Sour Cream
1/4  Cup  roughly chopped fresh Dill
2  Tablespoons  Lime Juice
2  teaspoons  minced Jalapeno Pepper
1  clove Garlic, minced
1/2  teaspoon  Salt

Puree all Dipping Sauce ingredients in blender or food processor until smooth.  Place in serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until serving.

Preheat grill on high to 500*.  Grill steaks over direct high heat, with lid closed as much as possible, 4 to 6 minutes total for medium-rare, turning once or twice.  If you are using Flank Steak, grill over medium heat (not high) for 8 to 10 minutes total.  I used thin-cut Flank Steak and it only took about 5 minutes total.  Remove Steak from grill and let rest 5 minutes.  Slice across the grain in 1/2-inch-thick slices.  Serve warm with Avocado Dipping Sauce.

This is a really good, really quick grilled Main Dish!  It is spicy, though, so use only half the Spice Rub for young children.  Don't skip the Avocado Dipping Sauce--the Cucumber and Sour Cream add a cooling touch and tone down the spicy-ness of the Steak.

From Better Homes & Gardens, June 2010 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Black Bean Soup

Black Bean Soup

Prep:  35 minutes + soaking
Cook:  1 1/4 hours
Yield:  8 servings, 2 quarts

1-1/2  Cups  Dried Black Beans
3  Celery Ribs, chopped
3  medium  Carrots, chopped
1  large  Onion, chopped
2  cloves  Garlic, minced
2  teaspoons  Olive Oil
6-1/2  Cups  reduced-sodium  Chicken Broth
1  teaspoon  dried Oregano
1/2  teaspoon  dried Thyme
1/2  teaspoon  Salt
1/4  teaspoon  Cayenne Pepper
1  Bay Leaf
3  Tablespoons  Lime Juice
1/2  Cup  Sour Cream
1/4  Cup  minced fresh Cilantro

Place the Black Beans in a large saucepan; add water to cover by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil; boil for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat; cover and let stand for 1 to 4 hours or until Black Beans are softened.  Drain and rinse Black Beans, discarding liquid.

In a Dutch oven coated with non-stick cooking spray, saute the Celery, Carrots, Onion and Garlic in the Olive Oil until vegetables are tender.  Add the Black Beans, Chicken Broth, Oregano, Thyme, Salt, Cayenne and Bay Leaf.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 1 to 1-1/4 hours or until Black Beans are tender.  Discard Bay Leaf.  Cool slightly.

In a blender, cover and process soup in batches until smooth.  Return to pan; heat through.  Stir in Lime Juice.  Garnish each serving with Sour Cream and Cilantro.

Deborah at A Delightful Glow asked me for a Black Bean Soup recipe last week.  This is one I got from a Healthy Cooking magazine a few years back.  I make it about once or twice a month in the winter.  I don't always puree all the soup; sometimes I do just half so it's a little more chunky.  I've also done this in the Slow Cooker on low for 8-10 hours.  When I do it in the Slow Cooker I soak the beans overnight, drain them, and then add everything to the pot, omitting the step of sauteing the Vegetables.  Enjoy!