Fresh From The Snow

Anybody who has been stuck in the house this winter with blizzard after snowstorm after blizzard has probably already cooked their way through the entire repertoire of soups, stews and slow cooker meals. I know I have. So last week with a “dusting” of 3-6″ expected and temperatures stuck in single digits, I decided I was tired of “cold weather food” and made some summer food instead. However with the grill drowning in 5 feet of snow out back I had to adapt summer food to indoor cookery.

Pork Spare Ribs, Broccoli slaw and roasted cauliflower ended up on the menu. Easy, fresh and bright – everything that winter is not.

spareribs-slaw-cauliflower

I had about 3 lbs of spare ribs that I brushed with about a 1/4 cup of Dijon mustard (option here to add  a Tsp of liquid smoke to the mustard) and then coated with my favorite BBQ spice rub, salt and pepper. Wrap in plastic and store 3-4 hours in the fridge or even overnight, but be sure to bring out and let the meat come up almost to room temperature before cooking. I placed the ribs on a rack on a sheet pan – cranked up my broiler – and cooked each side long enough so that they got brown and caramelized. Next I poured a little bit of apple juice under the rack and closed up the whole thing in foil, a big pouch, but not too tight. The oven got taken off broil and dropped to 300 degrees and the ribs cooked like that for about 1.5 hours. For the last 15-20 minutes I unwrapped the foil pouch and brushed on some BBQ sauce to give the ribs that tangy, saucy glaze and of course served more (warmed) on the side to pour over.

The broccoli slaw was simply a bag of shredded slaw and I added tiny shreds of raw sweet onion and a standard coleslaw dressing to it. Mix this up at least an hour (preferably longer) before serving so it has time to develop flavor and break down the raw veggies a bit.

The Cauliflower was sliced thick, drizzled with just a bit of sunflower oil, (great nutty taste – use olive oil instead if you want) salt and pepper. Roast it on a sheet pan at 425 degrees until tender and starting to brown on the edges.

Enjoy with a cold beer, plenty of napkins and a view of the snow-filled back yard.

 

New Boss

I recently started a new job and with the new job comes all the usual anxiety. Will they like me? Will I know what to do? Will I make it on time traveling on yet another post-blizzard commute?

So after miraculously arriving on-time for my first day, getting settled in and looking around I realized that everybody was really nice and supportive. About an hour later one of the principles of the firm walked in and passed out a piece of paper to everyone at their desk. Uh oh, first company memo being issued…

Here is what the “memo” contained…. A recipe for a traditional New York Style cheesecake!

That’s when I knew I fit right in!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss' directions!

Like a good employee, I followed the Boss’ directions!

You will need a 9″ dia, 3″ tall spring form pan, sprayed and I used a circle of parchment at the bottom as well.

You will also need an electric mixer ( stand or handheld) unless you fancy a good “wrist” workout.

Pulverize an 11oz box of those little vanilla wafers (or the equivalent in graham crackers) and add in a stick of melted butter. Spread this evenly in the pan trying to get it up the sides a bit too. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 500 Degree ( might want to make sure you oven is nice and clean first or there could be smoking.)

Combine: 5 qty – 8oz bricks of softened cream cheese, 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar, 4 Tbsp of AP Flour, 1 Tsp Vanilla, 6 eggs and beat together on high for 10 minutes until smooth. Scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Note: It helps to have all your ingredients at room temperature and this mixing step is important as it determines how smooth the texture of the cheesecake will be. ( I scrimped a little on this step and the texture on mine was a bit lumpy)

Now add in 1/4 cup heavy cream and mix till incorporated. Pour into the prepared crust and place into the hot oven. Note: it would be wise to put the spring form pan on top of a foil covered sheet pan before filling and placing into oven as this recipe goes right to the brim. It’s easier to clean a pan then your oven.

Bake 10 mins at 500 degrees, then drop the oven temperature to 250 degrees and set the time for 1 hour. At 1 hour turn off the oven and set the timer again for 1 hour and leave it in the oven still. Try not to open and peek during this process. Now remove the cheesecake from the oven and set on the counter to cool for 1 hour. At this point you can carefully remove the outer spring form and carefully wrap with plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours. (overnight is good) I wrapped mine with plastic so it wouldn’t absorb the orders of other foods in my refrigerator but the wrapping is optional.

Author’s note: Mine was quite dark on top because the original directions stated to put cheesecake in a 500 degree oven for 10-14 mins and I went on the long side. I am suggesting that 10 mins may be enough and you should have a lighter crust. But you can always cover that with a little powered sugar!

 

 

Going Nuts In The Snow

The last time I made these brownies (a week and 2 blizzards ago) I had a bit of chopped walnuts on hand and threw those in.

However this time I was out of walnuts and only had some pistachios on hand, pistachios that were still in the shell. Since we were on our third blizzard in like 7 days and both school and work was cancelled, I figured with nothing but time on my hands, I might as well shell the pistachios and add those to my brownies.

I really wanted to have the rich little nuggets of pistachio flavor jump out so I barely chopped the pile after I shelled them. I ended up with about 1/2 cup of shelled nuts and just threw them into my favorite brownie mix. ( I like Bob’s Red Mill GF)

Since these nuts were roasted but NOT salted, after I spread the batter into my sprayed baking dish I sprinkled just the tiniest amount of course sea salt on the top. That would give that expected salty hint that you usually get with pistachios and the combination of sweet and salty is always fun.

fudgy nut brownies

Moist and fudgy style brownies are the best in my book.

 

A Hot Mess

Some might think I was referring to the “post-blizzard” Boston streets. Although they are a “mess” they are definitely not hot. However back in my kitchen, trapped for 3 days, it was time to clean out the fridge/freezer. Thankfully because I wanted to and not because I had to due to power loss!

A pint of blueberries and a cup (+/-) of diced fresh pineapple, along with a few other items became the filling for a rustic “pie” of sorts.

I threw in a few dashes of ground cinnamon, ginger and salt with the fruit for a little something special, a tablespoon of all-purpose flour will help thicken the juices, 2 tablespoons of butter to enrich everything, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar help sweeten the deal. (you may prefer more sugar as this was a bit of a “tart” tart.)

now for the tricky part…..

I used one of those pre-made pie crusts… you know in the red or blue box, all rolled up. But I was worried it wasn’t big enough so I rolled it a bit thinner in an effort to get more surface. I thought I was being careful. I tried to close it up carefully.

However….a hot mess shortly developed. Probably had the oven a little too hot ( 375 degrees might have been better than 425) and maybe I left it in just a tiny bit too long…

 

a hot mess

It was still yummy even if it was a “hot mess!”

 

Convenient Breakfast

In the true spirit of “Cabinet Stew” I managed to pull together a breakfast casserole with things that were just hanging around the freezer and fridge.

Production Notes

Spray your dish first with a non-stick spray.

This is a small dish – About 7″x 10″ – so double the filling and eggs to serve a crowd!

Not noted above but in full-disclosure; I actually used up 4ozs of leftover full-fat sour cream by whisking it into the eggs first and then pouring over the goodies. It made the whole thing that much more luxurious and delicious! (but leave it out if you are dairy- free!)

Some Like It Tangy

I am more of a “vinegar girl” then a “sweet girl” so I like things a little on the “tangy” side whenever possible. I think even traditional dishes like beef stew can use a little “tangy” to them. And of course tomatoes…because I can not resist the combination of beef and tomatoes!

On a rare day of cooking together, my husband expressed his doubts when I pulled out a half-full bottle of Pepperoncini’s from the fridge. But I assured him that the beef stew I had in mind, while not traditional, would be delicious and remind him of a yummy roast beef sandwich with sliced tomatoes and mild “hots.”  (Oops, that is how I like my roast beef sandwiches, not him, but no matter I was sure I would convert him!)

We kept it simple by browning about 2lbs of stew meat in hot fat first with a dusting of flour*, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Then after carefully removing the meat – added in a large sliced onion for its turn to get browned a bit. Next in was the cherry tomatoes – whole. When they just burst a bit, everything was added back to the pot. We added only enough low-sodium beef stock to get the liquid level up the “shoulders” of the meat. A healthy couple of dashes of my secret ingredient (A1 Sauce!! ) to step up that beefy flavor.  And then the scary part…. about 8 ounces of sliced Golden Greek Pepperoncini’s. WITH some of the juice too. Let the beef cook till the meat is tender, season liberally to taste, and serve it up – all tangy, beefy and delicious! We just ate it in bowls but it would be delicious on big crusty rolls or over some rice! Guess what? He liked it!

spicy beef stew

tangy beef stew with burst cherry tomatoes!

*leave off the flour coating for Gluten-free!

 

New Year, New Adventures

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions but I will resolve this year to never leave my readers stranded for over a month again!

I am coming down the home stretch of my graduate degree and with that in hand I hope to settle into a new job, regular hours and some adventurous cooking.

So as I finish up my degree, enter a new year and a new phase in life, here is a bright and easy way to enjoy “winter’s tomatoes.”

winter tomato pizza

This can be put together with items you probably already have in your kitchen.

I happened to have a “tube” of pizza dough on hand that I let hang around in my fridge for just such emergency dinners, but you could easily make your own.

I mixed a small, almost equal, amount of mayonnaise and finely grated Parmesan cheese with a generous pinch of garlic powder and salt/pepper, thinned it with a little olive oil, and used this mix as a spread on top of the dough.

Meanwhile I took the sad, winter cherry tomatoes and brighten them up with dried oregano, salt,pepper, just a tiny pinch of sugar and some splashes of red wine vinegar.

I cooked the pizza on my preheated pizza stone until the crust was all crisp and toasty and the tomatoes were just wrinkling.

Easy, bright, quick and delicious – just as I hope 2015 will be!