Monday, June 08, 2009

Over and Over Again

Recently, I heard a parent singing the praises of her children for choosing strawberries over ice cream for dessert. Good for them; I did, too. However, I don't think that my Roasted Strawberries OVER Vanilla Bean Ice Cream was quite what she had in mind when congratulating her children for their healthy food choice. While her children enjoyed the simple, solo sweetness of juicy, red berries, I was spooning creamy and rich ice cream topped with warm and luscious red berries into my mouth. Score one for the kids and their dietary sensibilities. Score one for my decadent and effortless dessert. (Ignore my spreading hips, please.)

Roasting can be a lifesaver for strawberries that are a little less than perfect. Drizzle with Grand Marnier and sprinkle with a bit of sugar, then toss into a searing hot oven just long enough to soften the fruit and release the juices. I think they are even better than the usual macerated method for strawberries and syrup. The contrast of the warm, still slightly tart berries over the creamy sweetness of the ice cream is heaven in my mouth. The only thing that would make it better would be chocolate.

Wait a minute. There WAS chocolate. Those kids would have definitely chosen my Roasted Strawberries over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream if they would have known that they could have Fudge Cookies on the side. Dense, little brownie-like bites of cookie make even a non-baker like me give in to the baking sheets and cooling racks. Made with staples from the pantry and no eggs, they can usually be whipped up anytime...just make them small because they certainly are rich.

I will choose Roasted Strawberries over Vanilla Bean Ice Cream with Fudge Cookies on the side over and over again to land On My Plate.

Roasted Strawberries

1 quart fresh strawberries, hulled
drizzle Grand Marnier
1/2 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Arrange cleaned strawberries on a sheet pan (use parchment paper, if you wish, for easier cleanup).
Drizzle with Grand Marnier.
Sprinkle with sugar and toss to coat.

Roast in oven for 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.

Serve warm with juices over ice cream. (Serves 4-6)

Fudge Cookies

1 can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 stick margarine (butter doesn't work as well)
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped pecans
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat sweetened condensed milk, margarine, and chocolate chips in the microwave just until the chips have softened enough to combine well with other ingredients. Do not over heat, as the chocolate will separate. Combine mixture with vanilla, flour, and chopped pecans.
Mix well.

Drop onto cookie sheet by small teaspoonfuls.
Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes.

Store in a tightly covered container. These are rich & fudgy, but can easily turn to charcoal briquettes. (6-8 dozen cookies)

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

I had the opportunity to extend my 15 minutes of fame this week. The local newspaper, The Winner Advocate, contacted me and asked if I would like to contribute to their "Cook of the Week" feature. Some would think that this would be a piece of cake after being interviewed on camera for the Eye on Keloland piece, but I was still horribly nervous. I don't know that fame and fortune are in the cards for me. My stomach ties up in knots, my mouth goes dry, my palms sweat, and hives threaten to break through the surface of my skin and make me itch. Probably the worst symptom of my nerves is my babbling mouth. I think that the local editor and reporter, Dan Bechtold, was glad to be free of my chatter (and my crazy, barking pups) at the end of his visit to my house.

I also think that he was glad to have a doggy bag of My Favorite Cheesy Garlic Bread tucked under his arm as he swung his camera bag over his shoulder and folded away his notes. It is good stuff, and I thought that the readers of the "Cook of the Week" article would like to check it out. Along with the garlic bread, I pulled together a full menu for a summer dinner. I think that planning an entire meal often stumps people, especially putting together side dishes. This is a casual summer dinner menu that would work equally well for hosting guests, or just for any night of the week. The side dishes could be incorporated into many other menu plans, as well. All recipes are effortless, and I hope that you don't just read all about them, but do give them a whirl. I know that I really enjoy them On My Plate.

Simple Summer Dinner Menu
Chopped Salad with Spice Buttermilk Dressing
Main Course
Pollo en Mojo (Chicken in Spicy Garlic Sauce)
Side Dishes
Onion and Garlic Rice
Steamed Green Beans *no recipe
My Favorite Cheesy Garlic Bread
Blueberry Gallette

Chopped Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

½ teaspoon dried chipotle powder
½ teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper
½ cup low-fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 green onions, sliced thinly (and whites & greens separated)
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 head romaine lettuce, chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 ounces Monterrey Jack Pepper cheese, cubed

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, white portion of green onions, and garlic.
Combine chile powder, salt, and pepper and add to mixture.
Add romaine, tomatoes, corn, cheese, green portion of the green onions to a salad bowl.
Toss and combine. (Serves 4)

Pollo en Mojo (Chicken in Spicy Garlic Sauce)

2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts
5 cloves garlic
coarse salt
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ cup olive oil
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Combine garlic, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin seed, smoked paprika, olive oil, and red wine vinegar in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Pour into a Ziplock bag with chicken and seal.
Marinate at least 1 hour, but as long as overnight.
(I have also added the marinade to the frozen chicken breasts and allowed to marinate all day as the chicken defrosted in the fridge.)
Grill over hot coals until chicken is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes. (Serves 4)

Onion and Garlic Rice

1-2 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup uncooked rice (NOT instant)
2 cups chicken stock

Heat olive oil in small sauce pan with a tight fitting lid.
Add the garlic and onion, stir and cook until onion becomes translucent. Be careful not to burn garlic.
Add rice and continue to stir until all the grains are coated with the olive oil.
Add the chicken stock, reduce heat to low and cover with the lid.
Cook for 15-20 minutes.
Remove from heat, but do not remove lid.
Allow to sit for 10 minutes.
Fluff with fork and serve. (Serves 4)
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