Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Breakfast for Dinner

Here comes yet another recipe from Rachael Ray's 365: No Repeats. But first a little side note. While looking to see if this recipe was already posted online, I found this blog - One Year Project. This family took on a year-long endeavor to cook every single recipe in the 365 cookbook - and they did it. In order even. Which, as the author writes, included eating mac and cheese four nights in a row because that's the adore they came in the cookbook.

I'm not sure if I think they are admirable for taking on such a project and sticking to it or if I think they are crazy! I mean, what about leftovers? A lot of Rachael's recipes SAY they serve 4, but they end up serving 6-8 and out of this family of four, two were small children. And expense! Trying a new recipe every single day for a whole year would probably get pretty costly I imagine. Anyway, it makes for an interesting read and certainly an it's interesting concept.

The review on that site wasn't at all favorable to the recipe I'm going to share next. In fact, she called it "ridiculous" and "rubbish" but then again, she also admits to hating eggs, so take that review for what it's worth.

We on the other hand, loved this recipe. The only thing I don't like? You guessed it - the name. Eggs-traordinary Stuffed Toasty Baskets. Rachael, I love a lot of your recipes, but these names are killing me! And if she's like this without kids, imagine the cutesy talk once/if the babies come!

Egg Cups

The baskets in this case are pieces of sandwich bread that are rolled thin and tucked into muffin pans. Each bread basket gets a brush of butter, then an egg and then a mixture of bacon, tomatoes, onion and garlic, topped off with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese. The bacon-tomato mixture is quite simple but oh-so-good. It was one of the last recipes I was able to use my garden tomatoes in. Sigh. I miss them already.

The presentation is different and elegant and it really did work. I'm always skeptical that these things will be far more complicated than they let on - especially the removal from the pan part. But all save for one came out without too much effort though I do recommend buttering up your muffin pan very well even if it is nonstick - the eggs can and do leak a bit, causing a bit of sticking no matter how nonstick the pan.

Baked Egg Cups

Mmm....mmmm....I'm craving one of these just writing about it. The bread baskets come out very nicely - almost like a pastry crust - and the eggs cooked up solid without being overdone at the recommended time of 15 minutes. I might bake them for less time to see if I can get a slightly runny egg next time.

The One Year Project author also complained that the portions are puny for this meal. I disagree again. When you deconstruct it you have one egg, one piece of bread and one slice of bacon per person. Serve it with a big veggie salad and/or some fresh fruit and it's plenty of food. But then again, I often like our vegetable sides to be more of the main dish anyway with the protein portion playing a smaller role.

I see a lot of potential for this recipe - different meats, different cheeses - whatever is on hand. This recipe would also make a very nice brunch presentation and you could bake up a large amount at one time. All it needs is a different about Baked Egg Cups. Kinda boring, but at least it's not cutesy.

Photo Test

Please excuse this random post as I demonstrate how I think photos look better when linked to Flickr versus uploading to Blogger.

This one is the Blogger, size large.

Spicy Fried Corn
This one is the Flickr, size medium.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More uses for stale bread......this time - soup!

The Drunken Cheesy Bread only used up part of my stale-bread-in-the-freezer supply. The rest went to make this easy soup - Pappa al Pomodoro - from Rachael Ray. According to many sources, including this article in the NYT by Mark Bittman, the name of this soup translates loosely to "tomato mush". Hmmm, maybe sometimes it's better not to translate things into English. Most recipes I found included tomatoes, bread, olive oil and basil as the core ingredients.

Pappa al Pomodoro
Rachael says that the soup is thick enough when
your spoon will stand up in the pot.

In her cookbook, 365: No Repeats, she explains that she got this particular recipe from a gentleman in Italy who INSISTS that if you're going to make this soup, you MUST make it exactly as written - including the chopped raw onion and the drizzle of olive oil at the end to finish it off. Only the basil is optional. Not wanting to disrespect the originator of this recipe, I did follow the instructions to the "T", only leaving out the optional basil since it's no longer in season. This soup would be a great end-of-summer soup when the garden is loaded with tomatoes and basil, but my basil is long gone and I try not to shell out any money for those pitiful little fresh herb packs at the grocery store, so I skipped it.

Pappa al Pomodoro
Certainly it would have been wonderful with the basil, but it was delicious without. I was a little skeptical about the raw onion garnish but we all agreed that the onions did add something, as did the drizzle of EVOO. Easy to make, very hearty and very satisfying. Rachael claims this recipe makes 4 servings but we got at least 6 large servings, maybe more.

Now that I've tried it as instructed, I'll feel free to add a few dried herbs in the winter months to add a little herbal zing. Wegmans makes a rosemary olive oil sourdough that would be REALLY good in this soup.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bread, Cheese and Wine

Really, that's all you need for a terrific meal: bread, cheese and wine. Here's a supremely simple dish that combines all three into one deliciously satisfying meal.

I don't know about you, but I am always tossing leftover hunks of bread into the freezer thinking that I'll find a use for them later. More often than not, I end up throwing them out when they start to look too dried out and freezer burned. While cleaning out the freezer the other day, I found yet another bag of neglected bread pieces - nice chunks of crusty sourdough - and decided I was going to use them, darn it. I ended up using half for this recipe and half for an Italian bread soup from Rachael Ray that I will share with you later.

Drunken Cheesy Bread

I started with a shallow 11 x 7-inch casserole dish and laid the bread cubes in a single layer (a slightly crowded single layer, but I tried to squish them all in there). Next comes a bit of thinly sliced onion - be sure to slice as thinly as possible as the onion does not get sauteed first - and ham (I used some sliced deli ham that we happened to have on hand). Unlike egg-based stratas or bread puddings, this one does not require an overnight soak - you just pour the wine over the bread mixture and you're good to go. I used one of those little 4-pack bottles of white wine which are just shy of 1 cup - these little bottles are great to keep on hand for cooking. The dish is topped off with 6 ounces of shredded cheese - I used Fontina and Asiago. Super simple - the hardest part is shredding the cheese.

Mmmmm....was this good. We got 4 servings out of this, just barely. It looks like a large amount of food when you're dishing it out, but since it is not dense with egg, it actually ends up being fairly light and I wouldn't have minded a bit more or at least some leftovers. Next time I'll increase the quantities and make a 9 x 13-inch pan. I was happy to see that the onions - if you slice them thinly - bake up quite nicely so sauteeing them first truly is not necessary. My first thought was that a bit of proscuitto would be really nice in this dish and of course, just about any variety of cheeses would do well - the type of dish that you can mold to whatever you have on hand.

A big thanks to Elisabeth over at the CLBB for bringing this recipe to light! I see various incarnations of this dish becoming part of our regular many possibilities and potential combinations.........

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Excellent Granola Bars

In my efforts to move us away from processed foods (not completely, just where manageable and where feasible) I've been wanting to find a good homemade granola bar recipe. I've tried a few but haven't been wowed by any. And of course I wanted a chewy one - always with the chewy. So I knew I wanted chewy and I always want easy. I also thought that some peanut butter as a bit of added protein and sustenance would be a nice touch, so when I saw this recipe over at Culinary in the Country, it seemed to fit the bill perfectly.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars
These bars are originally from Eating Well, but Joe put his own spin on things by using brown rice cereal in place of Rice Krispies, using a variety of dried fruits rather than just raisins and by subbing in brown rice syrup and golden syrup in place of corn syrup. I pretty much followed Joe's recipe but also made a couple of changes - I used yet a different combo of dried fruits and I used puffed brown rice cereal (I didn't see any crisp at the store), and I used a combo of golden syrup and corn syrup. Corn syrup is what I happened to have on hand but once that's gone I will likely switch to a combo of golden syrup (it has such great flavor) and honey - I'd like to try the brown rice syrup, but I'm thinking that honey will turn out to be more economical. For a flavor boost, I toasted the oats at 350ยบ for 5-8 minutes or just until the oats began to brown and become fragrant.

These are fantastic. Easy to make and so nicely chewy. I was pleased with how the puffed brown rice worked in these and am thinking the puffed Kashi cereal would work well here. I think I'll add the wheat germ back in next time too. I wrapped each bar individually and kept them in the freezer - that way we could just grab them and go and I didn't have to worry about how long they would keep. I've begun experimenting with other combinations and once I have some nailed down, I will be sure to post them here.