Archive for June, 2010


Welcome back after a week-long hiatus. I returned from my vacation to Canada with lots of food pictures and stories which I will have to post sometime soon. Until then, I here is a delicious recipe for granola.

Prompted by this article from Slate, I made granola for the first time last year. The recipe is from Alton Brown and is simple to make, yielding flavorful, crunchy results that taste far superior to the sometimes too sweet/ too artificial-tasting options you can buy at the store.

This keeps for a couple of weeks at least – and I generally sprinkle some on yogurt in the summer, with berries.

Granola, by Alton Brown

Not sure about the serving size – I would say maybe 10-13  1/4 c. servings

3 c. rolled oats

1 c. slivered almonds

1 c. cashews

3/4 c. shredded unsweetened coconut

1/4 c. plus 2 T. brown sugar

1/4 c. plus 2 T. maple syrup

1/4 c. vegetable oil

3/4 t. salt

1 c. raisins

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix together oats, nuts, coconut, and brown sugar.

In a large liquid measuring cup, combine maple syrup, oil, and salt.

Combine both mixtures and pour onto 2 sheet pans. Cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to achieve an even color.

Remove from oven and transfer into a large bowl. Add raisins and mix until evenly distributed.

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chocolate lunar cake

If anyone feels the need to purchase a gift for this blogger, I’d happily accept the cookbook, “Retro Desserts,” by Wayne Brachman. I think I originally saw it mentioned on Smitten Kitchen – it looks like a fun baking-oriented book with quirky recipes. I looked it up on amazon and flipped through the few pages available online when I found this recipe.
Crazy Craters of the Moon Cake with Moonrock Topping
Serves 6-8
1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda
1/4 t. salt
6 T. vegetable oil (or melted butter)
1 T. cider or white vinegar
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. milk
1/2 c. miniature marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350
In 8-in. round cake pan, mix together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, salt.
With a spoon, dig one 1 1/2 in. and two 1/4 in. holes or craters, in the flour mixture.
Put the oil in the big hole and the vanilla and vinegar in the small holes.
Pour milk over everything and mix to consistency of mud.
Bake for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle on marshmallows…
…and bake 10-15 more minutes until center springs back lightly when touched and marshmallows melt into tan moon rocks.
Cool and serve right out of pan.
This cake was not spectacular. It had little hardened “rocks” of the batter – which I guess was the point. It did catch everyone off guard at first. I think the vinegar must have created the effect. It had tasted good though, and was super easy. I love baking which involves only a round pan and some ingredients. No mixing with an electric mixer, not much measuring,  no sifting… it was no-fuss, from-scratch baking.
That’s it for the next week – I’m off on vacation.

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chipotle baked beans

These beans represent another attempt to update a family tradition. My mom makes wonderful baked beans for BBQs and picnics, even Christmas. I think she would dress up canned baked beans with bacon, onions, and other seasonings. She would then bake them for a long time on a low setting, so everything was caramelized and delicious.

I found this recipe, originally from Epicurious, on Smitten Kitchen. The one significant change I made was to use dried beans, rather than canned. I prepared the beans a day before preparing the baked beans.

Chipotle Baked Beans, serves 8-10

1 lb. dried Great Northern Beans, cooked

6 bacon slices

1 1/2 c. chopped onion

1 1/4 c. purchased barbecue sauce

3/4 c. dark beer

1/4 c. mild-flavored (light) molasses

3 T. Dijon mustard

3 T. (packed) dark brown sugar

2 T. Worcestershire sauce

1 T. soy sauce

4 to 6 t. minced canned chipotle chilies

First, cook the beans. Rinse them and pick over. Put in a pot and soak overnight. Drain. Add fresh water with the beans in the pot and boil for 2 hours or so, or until as tender as you like them. Drain any excess water. During the cooking process, watch them so they don’t dry out and burn.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels and drain. Transfer 2 1/2 tablespoons bacon drippings from skillet to large bowl. Finely chop bacon; add to bowl. Add onion and next 7 ingredients to bowl and whisk to blend. Whisk in 4 to 6 teaspoons chipotle chilies, depending on spiciness desired. Stir in beans.

Transfer bean mixture to 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.

Bake uncovered until liquid bubbles and thickens slightly, about 1 hour. Cool 10 minutes.

These were a fantastic accompaniment to the chicken and potato salad. They were sweet from the BBQ sauce and caramelization, and spicy. I think using the dried beans made a big difference in texture and flavor too. The beans held up well – and were not mushy.

The biggest problem I had was figuring out what to do with the rest of the can of chipotle peppers. I mixed one into this edamame dip, and also added one to a store-bought container of garlic hummus. I think by now I need to get rid of the few that are still sitting in my refrigerator.

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It seems like every family has a preferred recipe for potato salad. My grandmother went for the simplest form – mayonnaise, vinegar, salt, pepper, and lots of dill seed (is that right family?). I have not tried to replicate it – I imagine, while easy to do, it would probably never taste like my grandmother’s.

For my “updated” Memorial Day picnic, I wanted a potato salad recipe that was not mayo-based. I also remembered a coworker raving about a blue cheese version that she had made earlier. She sent me this recipe for Red Bliss Potato Salad.

Here it is:

Serves 4 to 6

1 1/2 lbs. Red Bliss (or just small red) potatoes

3 T. coarse salt

1 1/2 oz. Danish blue cheese, plus more for garnish – I just used gorgonzola

1/2 c. buttermilk

1 t. red-wine vinegar

1 t. Dijon mustard

1 T. minced fresh chives, plus 1 teaspoon for garnish – I just used green onions

8 bacon strips, cooked until crisp and crumbled

Place potatoes and the salt in a medium saucepan. Cover with water, and bring to a simmer. Cook until a knife pierces through potatoes with little resistance, about 12 minutes. Drain, and let cool slightly. Cut the potatoes in halves or quarters depending on the size of them – you want bite-size pieces.

Meanwhile, mix blue cheese, buttermilk, vinegar, and mustard in a bowl until well combined.

Combine potatoes, dressing, green onions, and almost all of the bacon in a large bowl.

Garnish with blue cheese, green onions, and remaining bacon.

I chilled this for a few hours before serving – and it was delicious. It tasted like a loaded baked potato, which I guess is the point. It also tasted great leftover the next day. So next time you want to try something slightly different from your old family recipe, or want a recipe without mayo – this is a great one to try. It also made a great flavor contrast to the chicken and baked beans (recipe coming tomorrow).

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A dear friend of mine/ cooking buddy visited me during Memorial Day with the one request of going on a picnic. For many – I suppose Memorial day weekend kicks off picnic season. In my family  it certainly did. Rain was often a factor, however, and we often ended up with an indoor picnic, eating on a blanket on the floor of our living room.

My mom always made fried chicken and potato salad. I wanted to do something similar – but with a slightly different spin. So this is the first of several posts this week – which I am dubbing “picnic week” on Thyme and Reason.

Riffing on fried chicken, I found this recipe for oven fried picnic chicken. Here is the slightly adapted recipe:

2 c.  buttermilk, shake well before using

4 large garlic cloves, lightly crushed with the side of a chef’s knife, then peeled

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Cooking oil spray

1 1/2 cups plain dried bread crumbs

2 t. dried oregano

1 t. dried basil

1 1/2 t. kosher salt

1/2 t. black pepper

In large bowl, combine buttermilk and garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours. I let it marinate for five hours.

Arrange rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 400°F. Line large shallow baking sheet with foil and spray lightly with cooking oil. In large bowl, combine bread crumbs, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper; toss well to blend. My friend, who is an amazing cook, mixed up the bread crumbs and did not measure the spices at all. Use the ingredients listed above as a guide. The mixture benefits from generous amounts of salt and pepper. If you are newer to cooking, follow the list above. Otherwise, mix away using your own judgment.

Drain chicken and discard buttermilk. Working with 1 piece at a time, dredge chicken in bread crumbs until well coated, then place on baking sheet. Spray pieces lightly with cooking oil.

Bake chicken until golden and cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool. I did not have a wire rack at the time, and let the chicken cool directly on the baking sheet. The bottom of the chicken became soggy. I am now pleased to report that I possess a wire cooling rack and am eager to make the chicken again with hopefully crisper results.

The chicken was delicious. My friend did an amazing job with the seasonings in the bread crumbs and it was cooked well, despite the soggy bottom. It was moist and flavorful, benefiting from the earlier buttermilk and garlic bath. I ate leftovers cold the next day that were equally delicious. I will definitely be making this healthful alternative to fried chicken again.

Check back later this week for the rest of the picnic menu, including the chipotle baked beans pictured above.

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chipotle edamame dip

I probably never would have found this guacamole-like recipe if I hadn’t done a general search for “chipotle peppers.” I made baked beans that required only one canned chipotle, so I had the rest of the can leftover. This looked like an interesting and easy way to use up at least one more pepper.

Here is the recipe for Edamame Dip

makes 4 servings

2 cloves garlic

1 chipotle pepper, chopped

2 T. olive oil

1 t. hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1/2 t. ground cumin

1 c. frozen, shelled edamame

Place the garlic cloves, chipotle pepper, olive oil, hot sauce, and cumin into a food processor. Puree until smooth, then add the edamame, and continue to puree until smooth. Add water as needed to achieve desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper before serving.

The recipe did not call for lime juice – and it would have made a nice addition.

The flavors of all the ingredients worked together well, but the texture was a little grainy. Much like trying to make hummus, I’m not sure how to make the texture as smooth as dips sold in grocery stores. The author of the recipe compared this to guacamole – I think the texture is more akin to hummus. Anyway – it was a good way to use up an extra chipotle pepper.

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spicy macaroni and cheese

Unfortunately for my non-LOST-fan readers, I’m going to bring up the series finale again – kinda.

A small group of people got together to watch the the last episode of LOST, giving me yet another (unnecessary) excuse to try a new recipe. I really don’t like making a big dish of macaroni and cheese for a small group – so this was a good opportunity to make it, and enjoy it, without having to consume all of the leftovers myself.

While the technique of making this is almost exactly like that used for “Resurrection Mac and Cheese,” it has an entirely different flavor profile. It is more in-your-face with the extra spices, and lacks some of the nuance from the other’s combination of Gruyere and nutmeg. The spicy mac and cheese also contains about half as much cheese – but replaces much of that fat and richness with chorizo. Chorizo can be left out to create an equally flavorful dish. I would just up the amount of hot sauce used, or add according to your own taste.

Adapted from “Spicy Macaroni and Cheese,” from the Neelys

1 lb. penne pasta

3 c. cherry tomatoes

olive oil for drizzling

Salt and pepper

1 package chorizo, casings removed and finely chopped – I used 3 links of chicken chorizo to cut down on the fat a bit, can also be omitted entirely

6 T. butter

1/2 c. all-purpose flour

4 c. milk, warm

1 t. dry mustard

1 T. hot sauce

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

2 c. shredded Monterey pepper jack

1 c. sharp white Cheddar

1 (2.7-oz) can fried onions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

First, enlist some help and have him or her grate the cheese while you cook the pasta and get the sauce ready.

Cook the pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain in a colander.

Add the cherry tomatoes to a sheet tray, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 20 minutes, until visibly plump and softened.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the chorizo in a saute pan until crisp. Remove and drain on a plate lined with paper towels.

Melt 6 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour, stirring for 1 minute. Whisk in the warmed milk and bring to a boil. Continue to whisk constantly. Stir while adding the mustard, hot sauce and Worcestershire. Stir in the cheese; reserving 1/2 cup for the topping. The mixture will thicken as the heat increases.

Pour the drained pasta into the cheese sauce and mix well. Add to a 3-quart casserole dish. Add the chorizo and roasted cherry tomatoes. Top with reserved cheese and the fried onions. Bake for 35 minutes. Can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before baking if refrigerated.

I didn’t buy the fried onions at first with the intention of swapping them out for bread crumbs. It made me think too much of green bean casserole my family always has at Thanksgiving. I then ran to the grocery nearby at the last minute and bought them – and they were delicious. Adding a nice fried-oniony flavor, as one would imagine.

This was a hit while watching the emotionally-charged last 2.5 hours of LOST. It may not be the healthiest or most gourmet of macaroni and cheese recipes out there – but it certainly was tasty and satisfying.

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