05
Jan
14

Bran Muffins

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Well hello there.

The last time I posted I didn’t intend to go two years without blogging. Life has gotten in the way, big time. I had a second baby after an exhausting pregnancy. My job as a reporter became even more intense. Cooking and baking remained an outlet, but there was less time to do it, let alone write about it.

But today, as the four of us hunkered down during a snowstorm in St. Louis, I took the two littles into the kitchen. It felt like the perfect time to come out of our cocoon a bit more and return to Garlic Shoots. Much of the credit goes to my friend Kim McGuire, who linked to Turkish Lentil Soup the other day on Facebook. It made me miss doing this. So I got out the flour, the buttermilk, the honey, the bowls and the spatula. I changed the lens on my camera. I turned toward an old favorite — these bran muffins by Heidi Swanson. They come from her second cookbook — Super Natural Every Day, which I love love love. These muffins have become a winter staple for us. They’re perfect for January — stark and simple, but soulful. As they bake, they make the house smell like butter and honey. They smell like warmth.

During a blizzard, that’s exactly what we needed. And despite their name, these muffins aren’t boring. They hold their own. The fact that they’re made up of whole wheat flour, the wheat bran and flakes make them a nice antidote to the holidays. The other major plus is that they’re easy and quick. When you’ve these two as sous chefs, that’s pretty important.

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Bran Muffins

barley modified from Super Natural Every Day by Heidi Swanson

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup buttermilk or plain yogurt

1/2 cup barely melted unsalted butter

1/4 cup maple syrup or honey

1/2 cup unprocessed wheat bran or oat bran

1 1/2 cups pain, unsweetened bran cereal

1 cup whole wheat pastry flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F with rack in the middle of the oven. Butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, and maple syrup (or honey). Sprinkle the bran and cereal across the top, stir, and allow the mixture to sit for 5 minutes.

In a separate small bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Sprinkle the dry ingredients over the top of the wet and stir until just combined. Immediately fill each muffin cup three-quarters full.

Bake for 18-22 minutes, until the edges of the muffins begin to brown and the tops have set. Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then turn the muffins out of the pan to cool completely on a wire rack.

26
Aug
11

Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas

The other day I came to a realization.  After one year of juggling full-time employment and mommyhood, trying to keep a garden, cook great meals, keep this blog, write fantastic stories at work — I was nearly burned out. Cooking and gardening — both sources of relaxation — had become drudgery. This blog had become an after thought. And work was getting frustrating.

So, over the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time doing nothing. As a result, some nights we have frozen pizza for dinner. And some weekends, the house gets pretty darn gross. But you know what? That’s OK.

For the next month or two you’ll see fewer blog posts. Not that I’ve been blogging much this summer.  If I find a recipe or revisit and old one that I can’t resist sharing, you will find it here. Otherwise, know that I’m hitting the reset button.

I couldn’t help but share these tostadas that are a perennial favorite around here. I found this recipe in 2007 when Jeff was living in Houston. We picked up recipe cards anytime we were at Central Market or Whole Foods, and a few of them were good enough to make year after year. I made these again last weekend when my parents were in town.

The combination of flavors and textures are really quite incredible. The black bean and avocado mixture could be eaten alone or as a dip. Feta cheese isn’t exactly Mexican, but with the rest of these ingredients it’s absolutely amazing.

Chicken and Black Bean Tostadas
Whole Foods Market

1 large ripe avocado
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
2/3 cup canned black beans, rinsed
2 green onions, chopped
hot sauce, such as Tobasco
2 cooked chicken breast halves, shredded
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon ground cumin
additional lime juice
4 tostada shells or fresh corn tortillas
2 cups shredded lettuce, such as iceburg
2/3 cup crumbled feta
Salsa, preferably chipolte

In a small bowl, combine shredded chicken, tomato, cilantro and cumin. Season to taste with a squeeze of lime juice.

In a separate, medium bowl, mash the avocado with the 4 teaspoons of lime juice until almost smooth. Mix in beans and green onions. Season to taste with hot sauce.

Arrange tostada shells on plates. Top with lettuce, guacamole, and chicken mixture. Sprinkle with feta, spoon salsa over, and serve.

Serves 4.

31
Jul
11

Succotash

I know a recipe is good if I’m still thinking about it three weeks later. Yesterday I picked up six ears of corn at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market because I needed to make this again. Sweet corn kernels, limas, garbanzos, tomatoes tossed with tarragon and a champagne vinaigrette. It’s so amazingly addictive. Hands down, this is my favorite find this summer.

I adapted this from a recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website.  There is a lot of wiggle room here — grill the corn, or boil it. Use other varieties of beans, such as fava, or use different herbs. But please, do include tarragon. The hint of licorice and the sweet tang of the vinaigrette is what really make this work.

I took some of this over to my friend Christine, who had twin boys five months ago. Yes, it’s taken me five months to take food to her. I also took her my mom’s chicken tetrazzini — 80’s comfort food at its best.  Better late than never, right?

And few things are better than summer veggies in late July. Sweet corn, multi-colored tomatoes, fragrant herbs. Before I turn you loose with this recipe, know that this may take longer to make than you’d expect. Plan for 45 minutes if you use corn on the cob. The only problem here is you’ll end up with more vinaigrette than you’ll need. This is best at room temperature. I can say with near certainty that it’s nothing like the succotash you grew up with.

Succotash
adapted from Williams-Sonoma.com

For the Champagne vinaigrette:

1/2 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 T Champagne vinegar
2 T Dijon mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white pepper

Succotash

6 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
3 to 4 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 cups frozen lima beans
1 1/2 cups frozen edamame
1 can (15 oz.) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, seeded and diced
10 to 12 cherry or tear-drop tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 T chopped fresh basil
2 T chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 T chopped fresh tarragon
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion

To make the vinaigrette, in a bowl, combine the grapeseed oil and olive oil in a measuring cup with a spout. In a nonaluminum bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, shallot, salt and white pepper. Add the oils in a slow, steady stream, whisking constantly. Use immediately, or cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

Bring a pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat. Boil corn for 10 minutes. Rinse under cold water. Remove kernels with a paring knife, running the knife down the cob vertically. Put corn in a large bowl. Boil edamame and lima beans according to package instructions.

In a large bowl, combine the corn kernels, chickpeas, lima beans, vine-ripened and teardrop tomatoes, basil, parsley, tarragon and onion. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette and toss gently to coat. Season with salt and black pepper.

Serve with the remaining vinaigrette on the side. Serves 6 to 8.

24
Jul
11

Watermelon Granita

Complain about the weather and watch me roll my eyes. But this summer, I get it. I am complaining, too. It’s been a million degrees every day this past month in St. Louis. When the sun isn’t blazing, rain is pouring. And before it got hot, we had tornadoes every other week.

Yes, I am tired of it.

How hot was it this week? I’ll spare you the triple-digit heat index. It was so hot that a colleague of mine baked two dozen cookies in her car outside the paper. It was so hot that the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market was packed before 8:30 a.m. It was so hot that Gabi hasn’t gotten to splash around in her wading pool since the beginning of July.

When it’s 100-plus degrees, it’s almost too hot for ice cream. Sorbet or granita is better. Both are lighter, cleaner, stronger. This weekend, watermelon granita fit the bill.

Granita is an Italian semi-frozen dessert made from water, sugar, and fruit. First you make a simple syrup. Then puree the fruit in a blender. Combine the two in a metal baking dish, freeze, stir with a fork after a few hours and sha-bam. You have granita. If you need to,  put it on the counter for a few minutes to thaw a bit before serving.

I love this recipe. If you love watermelon like my toddler and I do, then you will too.

For extra indulgence,  drizzle a half-teaspoon of Campari over your bowl of granita. The result is an adult icee that will make you feel better about the heat.

Watermelon Granita
adapted from Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh

1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
3 1/2 cups watermelon,  cut into 1-inch cubes
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 to 2 teaspoons Campari (optional)

Heat sugar and water in a heavy small saucepan over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn up the heat and bring to a boil. Cool.

Puree the watermelon in a blender. Measure out two cups of puree. Stir in sugar syrups and lime juice. Pour into 8x8x2-inch metal baking pan. Freeze 2 hours. Stir with a fork, then freeze until solid, about 3 hours. Using for, scrape granita to form crystals. Spoon into bowls. Drizzle 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon Campari over each.

07
Jul
11

Green Beans with Shaved Onion, Fried Almonds and Iberico Cheese

This past weekend, Jeff got up at 6:30 a.m. and began the 14-hour task of smoking a brisket. It was an 8-pounder — a week’s worth of sandwiches. As wonderful as the tender brisket was (we could pull it apart with forks), four days later we have become brisket-ed out. Too much meat, I must say. But the beans I could eat forever.

These were my contribution to the meal, plus homemade white bread. Honestly, It’s hard to find a green beans worth blogging about. I typically fall back on sauteing them with shallots and slivered almonds. This Spanish combination of red onion, fried almonds, herbs and Iberico cheese is a different twist and one that must replace the shallots-and-almonds stand by. Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheeses work well here, too.

Slicing the onion as thin as humanly possible is key here. If you have a mandolin, use it. Or, consider buying an inexpensive hand-held one.

These beans were toddler approved. We adults loved them too.

Green Beans with Shaved Onion, Fried Almonds and Iberico Cheese
adapted, just slightly, from Olives and Oranges

1/4 plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup whole raw almonds
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound green beans, trimmed
5 ounces Iberico cheese (or Manchego or Parmigiano-Reggiano), rind removed, cut into 1/3- to 1/2-inch irregular chunks
1 small red onion, thinly sliced or shaved on a mandoline or vegetable slicer
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, basil, oregano, and/or any combination of herbs

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a small skillet over medium high heat. Add almonds and cook, shaking skillet back and forth every now and then until nuts are golden and start to pop, about 4 minutes. Remove from heat, sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and stir. Remove nuts from oil with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Then coarsely chop.

Bring a large saucepan of well-salted water to a boil. Add beans and cook until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, transfer to a large bowl, and immediately toss beans with remaining 1/4 cup oil and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Add cheese, onion and herbs. Toss well. Let sit for a few minutes, then toss with almonds and serve.

27
Jun
11

Grilled Chicken Bahn Mi

One of the most frustrating things about keeping a food blog is photographing everything (or most things) that you cook. No matter how many shots I took of this AMAZING bahn mi, the pics just are not pretty. The contents spill out in an awkward way. The plate is messy. It won’t win any beauty contests, but it’s insanely good.

A bahn mi is a Vietnamese sandwich that combines hot, sour, sweet and crunchy. It is a little like a salad between two pieces of toasted French bread. I won’t kid you. Making one can be time consuming. It involves pickling carrots and daikon radish. Then you must marinate, chop, grill and assemble. And finally, it’s time to take a bite. The combination of flavors and textures is incredible.

Jeff and I have been doing a lot of Vietnamese cooking this summer. Lime juice, cilantro, fish sauce and chiles have a cooling effect when its 90-degrees outside, and we’ve had too many of those so far this year. The marinade , which combines hot, salty, sour and sweet, makes killer chicken. Keep in mind that it has lime juice, so don’t let the chicken soak longer than three hours. Citrus can do funky things to protein if given more time.

I’m also including rough instructions for a Vietnamese chicken salad, which can be assembled in 15 minutes with leftover grilled chicken and the pickled veggies. No cooking required.

Continue reading ‘Grilled Chicken Bahn Mi’

20
Jun
11

Yeasted Waffles

Last year, I took a picture of Jeff on his first Father’s Day holding Gabi by the staircase. She was smiling and squirming, he was beaming. This year, as the two of them cuddled on the couch and read Tumble Bumble, I took pictures and made breakfast.

Jeff loves waffles. So this is what I made him.

Appropriately, this recipe comes from Hungry Monkey, a hilarious book about a Dad trying to raise an adventurous eater. How good are are these waffles?  “…yeasted waffles are better than waffles with bacon in them,” Matthew Amster-Burton, writes.

Agreed. There are a million and one ways to make waffles. But if you haven’t tried yeasted ones you’re missing out. The texture is much better than regular waffles. They brown better and they’re crispier. And you do most of the work before bed. You let the batter get all bubbly on the kitchen counter over night. The next morning, just separate two eggs. Stir the yolks into the batter. With a hand mixer, whip the whites until they hold peaks. The whites then get folded into the batter.

The yeast and whites makes the waffles nice and airy. Jeff shared his waffles with Gabi as I made more. They loved every bite.

This batch made around 14 waffles. Leftovers can be frozen and reheated in a toaster.

Yeasted Waffles
Hungry Monkey

10 ounces all-purpose flour (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled until warm
2 cups warm milk (any kind)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs, separated

The night before, mix the flour, sugar, yeast, and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and stir until well combined. Stir in the milk and vanilla, leaving a few lumps. Cover with foil, plastic wrap or a loose fitting lid and leave overnight at room temperature.

The next morning, the batter should be a bit frothy. Stir in the yolks. Whip the whites to stiff peaks and fold gently into the batter using a spatula.

Pour an appropriate amount of batter onto a preheated waffle iron. Cook five minutes or so, depending on the strength of the iron.




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