Saturday, January 21, 2012

Cranberry White Chocolate Quick Bread Mix in a Jar

Nothing says I love you better than a gift from the kitchen, especially one that fills the house of your recipient with the aroma of sweet, fresh baked bread. This recipe makes a moist and delicious quick bread, but the dry ingredients can be layered, ahead of time, in a quart-sized jar for gift giving.

The jar can be decorated in any number of ways to reflect the occasion. Be sure to attach a recipe card or an embellished tag with the recipe, additional ingredients needed and baking instructions before presenting your gift.

I created this recipe for the winter 2010 Category Craze-E Contest on when the category was gifts from the kitchen, which I love! Beautiful red and white layers make this a great Valentine gift for friends, family or your child's teacher. These instructions make one quart jar and one loaf of bread, but feel free to double or triple the recipe to make several gifts at a time.

Cranberry White Chocolate Quick Bread Mix in a Jar

For Gift:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg (I use fresh grated, but ground is fine)
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup pecans, chopped

For Making the bread:
2 eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 tablespoon milk

To make the gift jar: Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt and then spoon into a quart-sized jar with a tight-fitting lid. (I use a wide-mouth funnel to easily get the ingredients into the jar.) Tap the jar gently on the counter top to settle the flour.

Combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger and pour over the flour in the jar.

Continue the layers with the dried cranberries, then the white chocolate chips and finally the pecans. Put the lid on the jar and decorate as desired.

To make bread: Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x 5 loaf pan.

Pour all the dry ingredient from the jar into a large mixing bowl and stir to combine.

In a small bowl, use a fork to beat the eggs lightly and then add the sour cream. Continue mixing with the fork until the sour cream is incorporated.

Add the melted butter to the dry ingredients and then add the egg and sour cream mixture. Stir just until combined.

Spread into prepared loaf pan and bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted near center comes out clean.

Cool 10 minutes in pan and then turn out onto a cooling rack (with a layer of foil or waxed paper under the rack, to keep your counter clean.).

Stir together powdered sugar and milk until smooth. Drizzle or spread over top of loaf. Serve immediately or cool completely before slicing, to keep the slices looking nice. Yield: 1 loaf

Saturday, January 14, 2012

What's on the menu in 2012?

In November, the Daily News ran an article about food trends for 2012. The New York based international food consultant company, Baum + Whitman predicted that Korean flavors could be the It flavor offered by chain restaurants in 2012. Their observation of global eating habits over the last few years shows that when the economy took a down-turn, the American people turned to what they call "crisis foods". Inexpensive comfort foods like meatloaf, macaroni and cheese and roast chicken made a big comeback, but these days our palettes are getting bored with those flavors, and we're looking to put some life back onto our plates. Then, last week I was looking for ways to use up round steak when I found this Korean Sirloin recipe posted on by Jolene#20fan. Remembering the article I had read, I decided to try it.

I love the idea and the results of marinades, but the process of getting the meat into a giant, floppy bag full of liquid can get a little tedious. It's one of the first things that popped in my mind when I saw a new gadget on the market called the Bagwell. Essentially, a sturdy plastic base that holds your Ziplock bag up and open while you fill it. The other time I find myself needing something like this is when I buy meats in bulk, portion them out into bags, and then use the FoodSaver vacuum sealer to prepare them for freezing. After doing this for over 10 years, I've developed a system for the procedure, and a sizable collection of glass liquid measuring cups to hold the bags as I fill them. The only trouble is that a bag stuffed inside a glass measure leaves only a small amount of room to fill before overflowing. When I tested the Bagwell last week, using several pounds of ground beef, I was very impressed with the large mouth in which to fill the bag, and that the bag was suspended at least 6 inches above the counter. That meant I could fill the bag easily with a full pound of ground beef, while not juggling several small amounts of raw meat and an unruly baggie.

As you all know, I'm an admitted Gadget Junkie and can't resist testing out any kitchen gadget that I see or hear about. The Bagwell was one of those gadgets that makes you think, "Now why didn't I think of that?!" It's such a simple idea, but for $10 it's one of the most useful gadgets in the house. It folds flat, about an inch tall, is dishwasher safe and was quite sturdy considering what I was using it for. The FoodSaver bags were not what the Bagwell was designed for, so they were a little stiff and took some coaxing to get the bags over the four Bagwell arms, but once they were on they were held open a good four inches square, making filling them really easy.

The Bagwell with a FoodSaver bag. Note the large mouth for filling:

Since I had decided to make the Korean marinade within a day or two of getting the Bagwell, I was able to test it's usefulness with the resealable-type bag that it's designed for. I have a large, flat container made just for marinating meats, but I never use it. I prefer to use Ziplock bags for marinating instead. They take up less room in the refrigerator and it's easier to shake and re-distribute the meat and marinade periodically. It could not have been easier to fill a Ziplock with marinade ingredients and large chunks of round steak than it was with the Bagwell. The gallon-size Ziplock went smoothly over the four Bagwell arms and I found that being able to measure ingredients, and even grate fresh ginger, directly into the bag was not only a time-saver, but it saved me from washing extra dishes. I haven't tried it yet, but I can tell that this gadgie will also be like having an extra hand when trying to pour leftovers into a bag from a large pot. I make a lot of recipes that will divide into several meals, that I bag, label and freeze for busy nights. The Bagwell will make doing the OAMC (Once A Month Cooking) technique even more efficient.

The Bagwell with Ziplock bag for marinating:

The Korean marinade goes together easily, with mostly pantry items and can marinate in as little as one hour. It's great for those of us that usually decide to make this kind of recipe with only an hour to spare before mealtime. Since I already had lasagna in the oven, but was playing with my new Bagwell, I made the marinade then and the meat ended up marinating for 24 hours. The only complaint about this dish was from Bryan, who doesn't like the strong flavor that fresh ginger imparts. I'll just reduce the amount of ginger next time. The following night I used the George Foreman indoor grill to cook the marinated meat, the microwave to bake some potatoes, and we had a delicious meal on the table in less than 20 minutes. This is definitely a main dish that can be assembled, bagged, and frozen for future use. Just transfer the bag from freezer to refrigerator the night before, or the morning of, and let the meat marinate as it thaws. This is my version of the original recipe, as I don’t like to cook and eat the liquid that the raw meat has marinated in, so I doubled the marinade ingredients and reserved half for the sauce. I suggest serving this recipe on a bed of white rice with a side of steamed broccoli. Delicious!

Korean Sirloin

1 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
4 tablespoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 boneless top sirloin steak, 1 inch thick or 1 top round steak, 1 inch thick

In a large re-sealable bag, combine soy sauce, ginger, brown sugar, sesame oil, cayenne and garlic. Remove about 1/2 cup of the marinade to a small bowl (or baggie), cover and refrigerate for later. Add the steak to the large baggie, seal and turn to coat. Refrigerate for 1 to 4 hours, turning bag several times. Heat a ridged grill pan over medium-high heat until very hot. Remove the steak from the bag, pat dry with paper towels and cook for 6 to 8 minutes per side for a medium rare steak. Remove steak to a cutting board and let stand for 10 minutes. Pour the reserved marinade into a small saucepan and add 2 tbsp of water. Heat to boiling, and boil for 2 minutes. Slice the steak into thin strips, diagonally against the grain and serve with the cooked sauce.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

French Onion Soup

I love hearty, meaty, bean-filled soups any time of the year, but if you asked me which my favorite was, you might be surprised to hear it's actually French Onion soup. Why a simple soup with next to nothing but onions in it? I don't know, but there is something comforting about a rich broth that for once isn't over-powered by vegetables or meat, with a layer of melted cheese on top.

Onions as a basis for soup is not a new concept, as they were cheap and easy to come by for the poor in all parts of the world. In fact, we can date onion soup back to 250 BC. The Persians and ancient Greeks recognized onions for their varied health benefits, such as anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties, and as a result they nourished their foot soldiers with dried bits of bread soaking in an onion soup. However, King Louis XV is credited with the origination of the French Onion Soup. When the French King found himself at his hunting lodge with only onions, cheese and champagne, he put them together into a simple version of the French Onion soup we eat today.

I have been trying to find out where this recipe originated from, but without any luck. It's my favorite homemade version because it uses fresh herbs, beef stock and a little brandy. You can make this without the brandy, of course, but even just a touch of it brings out a quality in flavor that reminds me of the best restaurant French onion soups.

French Onion Soup

1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 large onions, finely sliced
5 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme (or a 1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons flour
2 1/4 quarts beef stock
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 cups Gruyere or Swiss cheese, grated or sliced
2 tablespoons brandy (optional)
1 loaf French bread, sliced and toasted

In large, heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat butter and olive oil on medium high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20-40 minutes or until browned and caramelized. This step is an exercise in patience, but the flavor derived from properly caramelized onions is essential to this dish.

Putting 1 clove of garlic aside, finely chop the rest and add to the onions. Add sugar and thyme; reduce heat to a simmer and continue cooking for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. Sprinkle flour into the pan and stir until well-blended.

Stir in wine and beef stock and bring to a boil. Skim off foam, if needed. Lower heat and simmer 45 minutes. Add brandy, if desired.

Heat the oven on the high broiler setting and rub each slice of toasted French bread with reserved garlic. Place flame-proof soup bowls on a cookie sheet and fill 3/4 full with soup. Float a piece of toast in each bowl. Top with grated cheese, and broil 6 inches from the heat for 3-4 minutes. Let the cheese begin to melt and bubble. Serves 6.

Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Petts' Salad

I remember eating this salad at Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Petts in Tacoma, WA. It was the 70's, my sister and I were young and it was my favorite restaurant because I loved the dark wood, the Edwardian English Pub atmosphere and especially the waitstaff dressed in period clothing. It was always an exciting evening for us to see the costumes; eating the food was just a bonus! This salad is super easy to make and this Christmas day my whole family got a piece of it. Nick chopped the fresh bacon for frying. Sophie tore the spinach leaves and Bryan mixed up the dressing ingredients. I had the fresh Parmesan, but forgot to add it before taking photos. Everyone really enjoyed this salad, but for me it was a little trip down memory lane.

I started researching the Clinkerdagger history after mom mentioned another restaurant we used to eat at and it jogged my memory of Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Petts. I soon found the salad and creme brulee recipes posted on Mom has been making their recipe for creme brulee for years and I think she may have gotten it straight from the restaurant.

I was surprised to read about the humble beginnings of Restaurants Unlimited, Inc. The founder, Richard Komen began by selling peanuts out of the back of his pickup truck. He seemed to have a vision and a knack for realizing consumer's wants and needs, even before the consumer realized what they wanted, and after Raymond Lindstrom joined Komen, they began opening restaurants with food and atmosphere that reflected the individual area and the trends associated with it, as opposed to using one model restaurant for all of them.
When a restaurant's appeal began to flag, Komen and Lindstrom would close it, reinvent it, and reopen it under a new name.

During the mid 1980's they took note of the popularity of over-sized cinnamon rolls and opened the first Cinnabon shop in a Seattle mall. Within a year, another 22 mall shops were opened and by the end of 1990 there were 72 Cinnabons operating across the United States.

These men are the driving force behind several successful restaurants in the Seattle area, such as the Palomino, Horatio's, Zoopa, Palisade and Scott's in Edmonds, which was the original Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Petts. They are also responsible for many other restaurants in states like Oregon, Hawaii, California, Chicago and Minnesota. I have great respect for forward thinkers and these two men surely fit that category.

When I think back, I can remember sitting in a booth and eating this salad, but back then I was still a picky eater. I'm not sure I would have tried it if I'd known the dressing had mashed egg yolk and that the greens were spinach. At that point my only knowledge of spinach was from watching Popeye cartoons, and green stuff squeezed out of a tin can looked far from appetizing!

You can find the Clinkerdagger Bickerstaff & Petts' Salad posted by ratwoman on
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TinksTreats by Lorilyn Tenney is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License