Thursday, January 28, 2010

Incredibly Good Sloppy Joes

I have developed a bit of a backlog.

I was un-inspired. I am learning to use Photoshop. Then my hard drive died. So I am gonna get back on track, starting with this quick recipe.

I am not one of these vegetarians who has learned to live without my favorite meat dishes. I am thankful everyday for fake meat. Unlike hamburgers, which was possibly my favorite meat food and I will miss forever and cannot be suitably replaced, sloppy joes made with veggie crumbles are indistinguishable from the real deal. I love not feeling deprived.

I love sloppy joes. NOT MANWHICH. The mixed yourself kind that are soooo much better, and really not hard enough to justify using the sauce out of a can.

This is the recipe I have been using. It'll make about 4 sandwhiches, depending on how much filling you use for each one. I actually have this recipe memorized.

1 lb ground beef or equivalent veggie crumbles

½ Tbsp oil (for veggie crumbles)

1/3 cup sweet yellow onion, diced

1/3 cup bell pepper (I like red), diced

¾ cup ketchup

1 Tbsp mustard

½ tsp garlic powder

3 tsp brown sugar

(and if you like a little spice add 1/2-1 tsp cayenne pepper, depending on how spicy you like them)

If using ground beef, brown in a large skillet with onion and pepper, drain an excess grease when it is cooked thru


If using veggies crumbles heat oil in large skillet and cook peppers and onions until tender

Over medium heat add remaining ingredients (including veggie crumbles for vegetarian sloppy joes) and mix thoroughly. Heat until mixture is heated thru-out.

Serve on buns, with cheese if desired. I recommend toasting your buns, and I always buy onion buns for these.

If you want to make a cheesy sloppy joe, after much experimentation I recommend melting a cheese slice on the bottom half of the bun before adding the meat filling. Cheese on top tends to get lost in all the wonderful sloppy joe flavor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

300 Pies!

I got a new cookbook. Pie by Ken Haedrich.

It is all pies. (And some pie crust too).

I haven't made anything yet. I have been in a bit of a pie slump. I just haven't been feeling the magic lately. Hopefully I will pull out of it soon.

But the recipes look great! Aside from the fact that Mr. Haedrich and I clearly have different ideas about the suitability of vegetable shortening in pie crust; he favors a crust with some shortening while I refuse to use it. EVER.

Why? Cuz it has NO FLAVOR.

But shortening crust aside, this book is full of great recipes. He includes a lot of recipes that combine fruits, which is great, and it has tons of the more unusual pies recipes that I love to try out.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

When Life Gives You Meyer Lemons: Shaker Lemon Pie

I really like lemon desserts. I also really like uncommon pie recipes. As soon as I saw Shaker Lemon Pie on Smitten Kitchen, I knew I would make it. As soon as Meyer lemons were in season. Unfortunately, I had JUST missed the season, so that was almost a year ago.

Meyer lemons are special (I guess). Before getting into pie baking I had only heard of them once, while watching Giada on Everyday Italian. Supposedly they are sweeter, less acidic and the skin is more eatable then normal lemons. And if you don't have your own tree, there is a fairly small window to use them. (You should still be able to find some now. I saw them at Trader Joe's this very day.)

A few things to note about this pie:

#1 It takes 2 days to make. But sometimes thats not all bad, a somewhat smaller time commitment each day.

#2 You want to slice the lemons as thin as possible. I bought a mandolin slicer just for this pie. It was also the cheapest mandolin slicer I could find at Target (think under $10) and while I'm sure I will find other uses for it it was completely incapable of slicing zested lemons, thinly or otherwise. So, my point is if you want to use a mandolin slicer for this and don't have one, get a decent one.

#3 Yes, the recipe means for you to use the WHOLE lemon- peel, rind, fruit,zest- all of it.


Day 1:

2 Large Meyer Lemons, zested and thinly sliced

2 cups Sugar

¼ tsp Salt

Day 2:

4 Eggs

4 Tbsp Butter melted

3 Tbsp flour

Double 9” crust

1 Egg White


Day 1:

Combine sliced lemons, zest, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cover and let sit at room temperature for ~24 hours. (Vocabulary word: you are macerating* the lemons).

It looked like this right after mixing...

and like this after about a day

Beats eggs. Add melted butter (don't add it hot) and flour, beat to combine.

Mix and combine thoroughly with the macerated lemon mixture.

Roll out bottom crust. Fit to 9” pie pan. Cover with foil and weight down. Bake for 10-15min at 375°.

While bottom crust is baking, roll out top crust so you can assemble pie quickly when it is done.

Remove from oven and take out foil and weights, the crust will not be brown on the inside but just starting to bake. (I call this my half-par bake method.)

Raise oven temperature to 425°.

Meanwhile, add filling to bottom crust. Lay top crust over filling and press to seal with bottom crust.

Make several 1/2” venting slits in the top crust. I like to make mine with tiny cookie cutters. Cut them out before you place the top crust over filling, then put the cut-out insides back into their cut-out shapes.

Beat egg white until frothy and brush over the top crust.

Bake at 425° for 25 minutes, then lower the temperature to 350° and continue baking an additional 20-25 minutes or until the crust is golden.

The pie came out beautifully. I have never egg washed my crust before (it always seemed like a lot of work for something that doesn't actually make he pie taste better) and I loved the pretty golden color it produced.

Deb of smitten kitchen also warned that the rinds may be a bit bitter, but she called it part of this pies charm. I personally found it to be more then a BIT bitter. To be fair, some of the people who ate this pie really liked that.

I did not. And again, to be fair, I tend to have a greater aversion to bitter tasting things then most people, so I probably should have thought about that in the first place.

What I did like was the flavor I got when I took a bite with little to no bitter rind in it. The fruit portion of the lemon came out tasting delicious, so I wanted to enhance that.

Luckily, it wasn't long before I had the opportunity. I made this pie again for Christmas Eve dinner. I zested and sliced the lemon like before. Then I peeled the lemon slices and left the peel out.

There was still some rind to it, so there was still some bitterness. But a much more acceptable level for me. Probably a good compromise for people who do and do not appreciate the bitterness.

* mac·er·ate (ms-rt)

v. mac·er·at·ed, mac·er·at·ing, mac·er·ates
1. To make soft by soaking or steeping in a liquid.
2. To separate into constituents by soaking.
3. To cause to become lean, usually by starvation; emaciate.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Stabilized Whipped Cream

Lately I have made a couple of items that required stabilizing my whipped cream topping. Never heard of stabilized whipped cream? Neither had I until I needed to make it.

Most recipes call for making and topping desserts with whipped cream right before serving because whipped cream will weep (ooze water) over time. But what about when timing won't allow that?

In these cases you can simply stabilize your whipped cream with some unflavored gelatin to make it hold up better, just like professional bakeries do. It doesn't alter the flavor and the whipped cream holds up great.

There are lots of different ways to add the gelatin though, and after trying a few (one of which was completely unusable) I have certainly found one method to be the most simple. Here is the basic 1 cup recipe, simply scale up accordingly for larger batches.

1 cup heavy whipping cream

1Tbsp powdered/confectioners sugar

1 Tbsp cold water

½ tsp unflavored gelatin

(any other whipped cream flavoring you will use)

Soak gelatin in the cold water for 5 min. Then warm over low heat until it dissolves. (I placed the small bowl I used to mix the gelatin and water into a sauce pot with water, as shown).

In a bowl combine whipping cream, sugar, and any other flavorings you are using. (If not using any special flavoring 1 tsp vanilla is ALWAYS a good idea.)

Add gelatin mixture JUST before you begin beating your cream.

Beat ingredients together until soft peaks form.

You can use the cream immediately to top and/or decorate your dessert and serve when you're ready. The whipped cream florets I made on this pie were still holding there shape perfectly (with no weeping) over 24 hours after I made them!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Simply the Best (Sorry to All the Others) Tator Tot Hotdish

I have a lot of respect for the casserole. They sometimes get a bad rap for being bland but just like any other food this just comes down to good ingredients, lots of seasoning, and a good recipe. And the right combination can be delicious, filling, warm, and hearty. Plus, you can get most of your cooking dishes done while it bakes.

Warm and hearty are probably two big reasons why casseroles are so popular in the mid-west, where I grew up. I, however, did not eat a lot of casserole dinners because my parents were not from the mid-west and this did not tend to be how they cooked. And the one that fascinated me the most was not even on my parents radar (seriously, they never even had it until I was 25 and made it for them myself!)

Tator-tot Hotdish.

I encountered it at school, pot-lucks, even my college dorm and I thought it was fantastic. When I was in college and living in my own apartment this was one of the first recipes I looked up and started to cook for my-self.

And almost immediately I started putting my own touches on it.

Because I have an aversion to many (but not all) frozen and canned vegetables. And since I can barely stand mushrooms cream of mushroom soup is not really my thing. And I don't even think American cheese slices count as real cheese. And I don't eat meat.

And here is where I make the really big confession: And because I like flavor. Yes, OK, it can be bland. I didn't say the bad rap wasn't ever for a reason, just that it doesn't have to be. I season the shit out of it.

So here is the recipe I have finally settled on:

Simply the Best (Sorry to All the Others) Tator-tot* Hotdish

*It is not necessary to use tator-tots, I'm not advertising for them and obviously thats not what I used in my pics. It's just what we call it in MN.

1 pound Ground Beef or equivalent Veggie Crumbles

½ medium Onion, Chopped (yellow or white)

½ Red Bell Pepper, Seeded And Chopped

1 can Cream Of Broccoli Soup

¼ cups Milk

2 dashes Worcestershire Sauce (optional for vegetarian version- it contains anchovies!)

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1 teaspoon Onion Powder

2 teaspoons Cayenne Pepper, Or To Taste (optional)

½ package Dry Onion Soup

¼ cups Chili Sauce

1-½ cup Sharp Cheddar, Shredded, Divided

¾ cups Frozen Peas

1 whole large Carrot, Diced

8-¾ ounces Corn (small Can or use ½ of a regular size can)

¾ cups fresh Green Beans, Chopped To 1" Pieces

32 oz. bag Tater Tots

Preheat oven to 375F.

If using beef brown with onion in a large skillet; add red bell pepper just a few minutes before ground beef is done. Drain any excess grease.


For veggie crumbles heat a small amount of oil in a pan, then sautee onion until almost soft; then add red pepper for last few minutes.

In a large bowl combine meat/crumbles, soup, milk, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, dry onion soup mix, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, and 1 cup cheese. Mix thoroughly.

Stir in peas, carrots, corn, and green beans. (I do not cook the beans or carrots first so they stay pretty crisp. If you would like softer veggies steam to desired texture before adding to mixture).

Transfer to a casserole baking dish. (I prefer 8″ or 9″ square, but any size will be fine. When mixture is more spread out it will cook faster, but the ratio to the potatoes will be the same.)

Sprinkle remaining 1/2 cup cheese over the mixture.

Top with Tater-tots. I like to lay them in nice even rows, usually a few have to be laid vertically to fit the whole bag.

Bake at 375F until filling is bubbling, usually about 35 minutes for an 8″ square dish. Turn up to broil for a few minutes if you like crispy potatoes on top, but watch closely—they will brown up quickly.