16 April 2010

Peek Into My Pantry!

Happy Friday!  It has been a long week and I have been extremely negligent of TPF lately - my apologies!  I am making Beef with Broccoli for dinner tonight - my version of the Chinese takeout classic, and a new favorite of ours.

As a fun Friday post, I thought I'd give you a peek into my pantry, seeing as how I just cleaned and reorganized it last night!  I seem to always be able to throw a meal together using ingredients from my pantry and my freezer (hmm, a future post perhaps?) so maybe I can inspire you to stock up!

Let's start with the top half!

As you can see, the top shelf is unlabeled.  All that's up there is a loaf of panettone, my KA food grinder, a cupcake tree, and a big box of Ramen noodles (hey, I like to eat them for lunch!).

The next shelf has my tea collection, plus Sweet & Low.  I also have extra boxes of raisins, oatmeal, and pancake mixes.  Behind all the food is an extra plastic pitcher and some plastic tumblers, and a plastic ketchup & mustard set.

Next you see my canned goods - most important to me are tuna, artichokes, tomato puree, and olives.  Usually I have a box or two of chicken stock, and at the moment, I also have some Campbell's condensed soup - Andrew was sick last week, and we've got to have tomato soup on hand to go with his grilled cheese!  I've also got tons of pasta - everything from egg noodles to rigatoni.  There's also piccolini, lasagne, spaghetti, and bow ties.

That red "PopCorn!" cup is the bane of my existence - we use the scoop to get cat food and the cup to get water, and then carry it to the basement to feed the kitties.  I always stick it in the cat food bin, and Andrew always puts it back on the shelf!

The fourth shelf has the usual backup baking supplies (flour, cornstarch, baking soda), plus some different baking stuff - raw nuts, anise seeds, and ladyfingers (for tiramisu!).  The "911" Desserts are cake mixes, graham cracker crumbs, and instant pudding - always ready when I need to throw something together at the last minute!  You can also see my popcorn stash - both microwave and the "real" kernels.

 Also on the fourth shelf are my "most used baking pans" - two muffin tins, two baking sheets with Silpats, and a 13x9 pan.  I keep two smaller baking sheets, a 6-cup muffin tin, an 8x8 pan, and a 13x9 in a kitchen drawer.  If those are my "first string" pans, these are the "second string"!

The last shelf has random cleaning supplies off to the left - contractor-size trash bags, vacuum attachments, etc.  In the middle is my "baking stuff" - from powdered sugar to chocolate chips, colored sprinkles to corn syrup.  I always keep yeast, extra brown sugar, sweetened and unsweetened chocolate, unflavored gelatin, and parchment paper on hand.

Also, behold the Almighty Crock Pot!  I love this thing, and use it all. the. time.  As you know, having seen my slow cooker meals.

On the floor you can see the appliances I don't keep in the kitchen, including my waffle maker and blender.  Off to the right, I store white and sweet potatoes.  And in the middle, the bin of pet food - kitty food and doggy kibble.

My pantry is in my laundry room, and I've utilized one of the cabinets next to the dryer as storage.  Here are more baking pans - on the top shelf there are two 8" cake pans, a 9" springform, and a 10" tart pan.  The middle shelf holds two pie plates and a stainless steel mixing bowl.  I also store paper goods here - cups, plates, napkins, and plasticware.  Below the cabinet, you can see my beloved recycling bins.

So, that's it!  Hopefully you enjoyed your little tour of my pantry.  Next week, I'm hoping to share my homemade Spinach-Ricotta Ravioli and my friend Adriana's Italian Drip Beef Sandwiches.

10 April 2010

Macaroni & Cheese, Take Two

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was putting together some freezer meals, including Meatballs Stroganoff.  One of the other meals I made was Macaroni & Cheese.  At the last minute, I opted to try a new Mac & Cheese recipe, so I wanted to share my notes on that with you, as compared to my old standby.

A shot of my "usual" recipe - a take on Alton Brown's mac & cheese, this one has three different cheddars and is topped with buttery breadcrumbs.

For comparison's sake, here is a photo of the finished version I made this time.  This is adapted from the Pioneer Woman's Mac and Cheese.

Major differences between these two recipes - no breadcrumbs in the PW recipe.  I topped the PW version with bacon instead, since I had it in my fridge.  I used radiatore for this version, and I loved the way the cheese clung to every nook and cranny!  Much better than elbows, in my opinion, and this shape is stout enough to stand up to cooking in the cheese sauce without getting floppy.

Macaroni & Cheese, Version 2
adapted from The Pioneer Woman

1 lb. radiatore or your favorite pasta, cooked al dente
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c. AP flour
2-1/2 c. skim milk
2 tsp. dry mustard
1 egg, beaten
1 lb. cheddar, grated
1 c. mozzarella, grated
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. black pepper

Melt the butter in a large (I mean it, LARGE) saucepan over medium heat.    Whisk the flour and mustard into the butter and cook the roux over medium-high heat for five minutes.

Pour in the milk and whisk to combine.  Cook about five minutes, until very thick, then drop the heat to low.

In a small bowl, combine the beaten egg and 1/2 c. of the milk mixture.  Whisk vigorously to avoid scrambling your egg.  Pour mixture back into the sauce and stir until smooth.

Add cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper.  Stir slowly until cheese has melted and sauce is completely combined.  Add cooked pasta and stir to coat. 

Pour into large greased baking dish (I used cooking spray), top with mozzarella and crumbled bacon, and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

This dish is a crowd-pleaser that's easy to put together - comfort food at its best!

08 April 2010

Check it Out: Fat of the Land

I've been following the blog Fat of the Land for a while now, and I'm a big fan.  Langdon Cook is a modern-day forager who ties stories of his family in with gourmet recipes.  I love his photography - it's a good mix of close-up food shots with fun family photos.

His first book, Fat of the Land: Adventures of a 21st Century Forager came out recently, and it's sure to be a great read.  Check out his blog and his book for some great perspective on finding great food where you might not expect it!

05 April 2010

Bouef Bourguignon

By now, I'm sure you've seen the movie Julie & Julia.  I saw it last summer in the theaters, watched it on pay-per-view with Ann, and got the DVD for Christmas.  Though I've watched the movie several times, it wasn't until recently that I made an attempt at the showstopping star of the film - Julia's Bouef Bourguignon.  The recipe is re-created everywhere on the internet, so I'll simply credit it to Julia herself. 

I'm glad I tried this, but let me just say: it's a lot of work.  This is a good dish to put together on a lazy Sunday when you have time to wander in and out of the kitchen, time to cook each part of the dish separately, time to check the oven and stir the pot and taste for seasonings.  This is not a good dish to make the Friday of the Olympic opening ceremonies when you are working at home and taking your two 15 minute breaks plus your lunch break as your windows of opportunity to chop, saute, and stir.  Luckily, I finish working around 4, so I had plenty of time to clean up the kitchen, set the table, and brush the flour out of my hair before the in-laws showed up.  It's taken me quite a while to get around to blogging this dish; maybe because it took me so long to finally make it, I've likewise been procrastinating sharing it with you? 

I tried not to be my usual substituting self and follow the recipe closely, but I did make a few small changes.  Instead of chunk bacon, I cut strips of bacon into chunks.  Instead of an herb bouquet, I just added the chopped herbs to the pot.  Lastly, I doubled the amount of pearl onions - mostly because we love them and the bag I bought had over 40 onions in it.  I don't think any of those changes had a major impact on the dish.  I opted to serve over egg noodles and served fresh steamed broccoli as a side. 

Boeuf Bourguignon
adapted from "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" 
by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck 

One 6-ounce piece of chunk bacon
3 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds lean stewing beef, cut into 2-inch cubes
1 carrot, sliced
1 onion, sliced
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons flour
3 cups red wine, young and full-bodied (I used Burgundy)
2 1/2 to 3 1/2 cups brown beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 cloves mashed garlic
1/2 teaspoon thyme
A crumbled bay leaf
18 to 24 white onions, small
3 1/2 tablespoons butter
Herb bouquet (4 parsley sprigs, one-half bay leaf, one-quarter teaspoon thyme, tied in cheesecloth)
1 pound mushrooms, fresh and quartered

Remove bacon rind and cut into lardons (sticks 1/4-inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long). Simmer rind and lardons for 10 minutes in 1 1/2 quarts water. Drain and dry.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Sauté lardons in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a flameproof casserole over moderate heat for 2 to 3 minutes to brown lightly. Remove to a side dish with a slotted spoon.

Dry beef in paper towels; it will not brown if it is damp. Heat fat in casserole until almost smoking. Add beef, a few pieces at a time, and sauté until nicely browned on all sides. Add it to the lardons.

In the same fat, brown the sliced vegetables. Pour out the excess fat.

Return the beef and bacon to the casserole and toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Then sprinkle on the flour and toss again to coat the beef lightly. Set casserole uncovered in middle position of preheated oven for 4 minutes.

Toss the meat again and return to oven for 4 minutes (this browns the flour and coves the meat with a light crust).

Remove casserole and turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Stir in wine and 2 to 3 cups stock, just enough so that the meat is barely covered.

Add the tomato paste, garlic, herbs and bacon rind. Bring to a simmer on top of the stove.

Cover casserole and set in lower third of oven. Regulate heat so that liquid simmers very slowly for 3 to 4 hours. The meat is done when a fork pierces it easily.

While the beef is cooking, prepare the onions and mushrooms.

Heat 1 1/2 tablespoons butter with one and one-half tablespoons of the oil until bubbling in a skillet.

Add onions and sauté over moderate heat for about 10 minutes, rolling them so they will brown as evenly as possible. Be careful not to break their skins. You cannot expect them to brown uniformly.

Add 1/2 cup of the stock, salt and pepper to taste and the herb bouquet.

Cover and simmer slowly for 40 to 50 minutes until the onions are perfectly tender but hold their shape, and the liquid has evaporated. Remove herb bouquet and set onions aside.

Wipe out skillet and heat remaining oil and butter over high heat. As soon as you see butter has begun to subside, indicating it is hot enough, add mushrooms.

Toss and shake pan for 4 to 5 minutes. As soon as they have begun to brown lightly, remove from heat.
When the meat is tender, pour the contents of the casserole into a sieve set over a saucepan.

Wash out the casserole and return the beef and lardons to it. Distribute the cooked onions and mushrooms on top.

Skim fat off sauce in saucepan. Simmer sauce for a minute or 2, skimming off additional fat as it rises. You should have about 2 1/2 cups of sauce thick enough to coat a spoon lightly.

If too thin, boil it down rapidly. If too thick, mix in a few tablespoons stock. Taste carefully for seasoning.

Pour sauce over meat and vegetables. Cover and simmer 2 to 3 minutes, basting the meat and vegetables with the sauce several times.

04 April 2010

Happy Easter!

The weather has been absolutely beautiful for the past week, so I put off making my Easter dessert until the last minute.  I'm glad I did, because I ended up also making a birthday cake for Andrew's Aunt Sammy. 

When I saw the recipe for Nigella's Fairy Cakes on "Once Upon a Plate", I knew I had to try them.  My one issue with the recipe was that Mari didn't explain how to get the cupcakes flat and iced as perfectly as hers were.  I winged it and they came out okay.  Mari's icing must have been much thicker than mine, because my cupcakes soaked up a lot of the liquid and were not as perfectly smooth as hers were.  The blue ones came out best, and they were all delicious, so no one really minded.

I added 3/4 cup cocoa powder to one batch of the Fairy Cake recipe and baked it in an 8" cake pan.  Then, using an idea I saw on the back of the Easter M&M's bag, I cut the cake in half and turned it into a butterfly.  I used Mari's easy buttercream recipe, tinted it pink, and decorated with sprinkles and M&M's.  I used candied citrus peel as antennae.  Sammy was really happy with her cake, and it tasted fantastic!