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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Homemade English Muffins

 About a year and a half ago I got asked to teach a class on Stove-top recipes. Until that time I never realized that English muffins were cooked on a griddle or in a frying pan.
It took me three tries with the recipes I found, working out the kinks before I got it to work, but it was worth it! Now they are one of my favorite things to make. The nice thing is that the muffins take a while to cook so you can do other things while you're cooking them. Usually I double the batch and then make them at night while my kids are sleeping and then spend the interim cooking time shopping on Taobao or blogging or something else. Just make sure you set a timer if you do that though!
They are amazing! My husband says he has been spoiled and can't go back to store-bought after this. I love them with honey and butter or some fresh strawberry freezer jam.
Make sure you store them in the fridge or the freezer. As they don't have any preservatives, they will get moldy after a few days if you leave them out.

*One note- you will need metal rings to make these. I got mine at my favorite kitchen supply store at the Hongqiao Flower and Bird Market.

1/2 cup non-fat powdered milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon shortening or butter
1 cup hot water
1 envelope dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
1/8 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup warm water
2 cups all-purpose flour
Non-stick vegetable spray

In a bowl combine the powdered milk, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, shortening or butter, and hot water, stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool.

In a separate bowl combine the yeast and 1/8 teaspoon of sugar in 1/3 cup of warm water and rest until yeast has dissolved. When the milk mixture has cooled and the yeast mixture turns foamy, add the yeast mixture.

Add the sifted flour and beat thoroughly with wooden spoon.  Don't over add flour. This is a very wet dough. The dough should be the consistency of thick pancake batter. Cover the bowl and let it rest in a warm spot for 30 minutes.

After the dough had risen for 1/2 hour, add remaining 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 tsp baking soda ad mix well.
Put rings on your griddle or pan. (I use my stockpot because it heats up more evenly than my frying pan and gives better uniformity to my muffins)
Spray the bottom of the pan and the rings heavily with cooking spray and sprinkle cornmeal inside the rings.
Set your flame on the lowest it will go without going out (My last apartment you could turn the flame down lower than this -this apartment I had to turn the flame off and on to keep the pan from getting too hot)

Add 1/4 cup of dough to the bottom of each ring.
Sprinkle cornmeal over the top of each muffin.
Let cook for 4-5 minutes. You will know when they are ready to flip because the top of the muffins will no longer appear shiny.
Flip and cook on the other side 2-3 minutes.
Let cool.

Split with a fork and enjoy!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Parmesan Chicken Strips

The original recipe for this was actually Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast. I used to make it quite a bit when I was first married and trying to impress my darling husband with my "skills" in the kitchen. It looked fancy when paired with pasta and salad and tasted divine. Now that I've got 3 munchkins running around- I've adapted it to be more kid-friendly as a finger food.

(For the bread crumbs in this recipe I use left over pieces of baguettes. I cut them up into small pieces and let them get stale by just leaving them in an uncovered container for a day or two. Then right before I want to use them I either crush them in a ziploc bag or pulse them in the blender)

2 chicken breast cut into strips
2 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese(I use the powdered kind-smuggled over in my suitcase, but you can find it at City Shop)
1 1/2 tsp salt
fresh ground pepper
2 eggs
1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp cornstarch

Cut up chicken into strips. In a bowl beat eggs together with lemon juice and cornstarch. In a separate bowl mix bread crumbs with cheese, salt and pepper.

Dip strips into egg mixture. Turn to coat. Then dip strips into bread crumbs. Let rest on a plate for 5-10 minutes to allow crumbs to set.
Fry in batches in hot oil over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.

Using tongs, turn strips over and cook on other side for about 3 minutes.
Drain on paper towels.

Place on a baking sheet in oven on a low setting to keep warm.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Chewy Granola Bars

Chewy granola bars are such a great snack.  Heck, in my house they even make a great on-the-go breakfast!  I love making my own granola bars because 1) they taste better, 2) I think they're 'healthier', and 3) I can put whatever I want in them.  My favorite mix-ins are dried cranberries, chocolate, coconut and almonds but the possibilities are endless.  You can also use cereals, candies, dried fruits, nuts, nut butters- whatever you want.  I was trying to make them a little bit healthier this week so I used coconut oil as my fat, but you can use butter and they're absolutely decadent!  However, I still used the corn syrup.  Next time I'm going to make them using only honey  (I've seen coconut oil at Fields and the Avocado Lady.  Pines on Anfu Lu carries light corn syrup.)

Okay, here we go!  Gather your ingredients and preheat your oven to 350.  (See below for the measurements.)

Using a blender or food processor, blend 1/3 cup oats to make oat flour. 

Mix your dry ingredients together in a large bowl, including any dry mix-ins you want to use.

In a small bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients.  Pour the wet ingredients over your dry ingredients and mix well.  This is also where you'll stir in your nut butter if you're using one.

Line a baking dish with parchment paper and spray with cooking spray or coat with butter.  Spread the granola into the baking dish and press down so the granola is compact.

Bake for approximately 40 minutes until the edges and top are golden brown.  Cool completely on a wire rack.  Remove from the baking dish and cut into bars.  Make sure they're cooled completely before you cut them though or they won't hold their shape well!

Chewy Granola Bars
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

2 cups oats, divided
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2-3 cups mix-ins (I used 1/2 cup dried cranberries, 1/2 cup chopped semi-sweet chocolate, 1/4 cup chopped almonds and 1/4 cup shredded coconut)
1/3 cup nut butter (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons light corn syrup

Preheat your oven to 350*F.
Using a food processor or blender, process 1/3 cup of the oats to make oat flour.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, oat flour, granulated sugar, salt, cinnamon and mix-ins.  In a smaller bowl, combine the vanilla extract, coconut oil or butter, honey and light corn syrup.  Pour your wet ingredients over your dry ingredients and mix well.  Add the nut butter, if using, and mix again.
Line a baking dish with parchment paper (mine was 17x23 cm) and coat with cooking spray or butter.  Spread the granola over the parchment paper and press down to pack the granola.
Bake for 40 minutes or until the sides and top turn golden brown.  Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely.  Remove from the baking dish and cut into bars.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Rosemary

My husband lived in jolly Old England for two years and one of the things he came back loving was roasted potatoes. Roasties, he fondly calls them.  This is my dressed up version- love garlic, rosemary and asparugus with roasted potatoes. It makes a lovely, colorful side dish for any meal.

4-5 yukon gold potatoes
1 bunch asparagus(optional)
1 red onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp dried rosemary
3-4 tbsp olive oil

Cut potatoes, onion (and if using, asparagus)into 1 inch pieces and toss together.
Add, minced garlic, salt and rosemary.
Toss together with oil.
Transfer to baking dish.
Roast in the oven at 375 F or 180 C for 30 minutes. Transfer to the highest rack. Turn the oven setting to Broil and turn the temperature up to as high as it will go. Roast for 10-15 minutes more, stirring every 4-5 minutes.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Homemade Ricotta

A few years ago, I was obsessed with making everything from scratch and I heard I could even make cheese!  I googled cheese recipes and the easiest recipe that came up was this ricotta by Shutterbean.  I'm still not convinced that ricotta is even a cheese, but it was amazing and I've been making it ever since!  Originally, I only used ricotta in lasagna, but this stuff is so good that I'm always trying to find new excuses to make another batch.  Some of our favorites are ricotta pancakes, bruschetta, as a pizza topping, and as a filling for crab-rangoon-without-the-crab (aka Poor Man's Rangoon).  Enjoy!

First, gather your ingredients.  You'll need:
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 cups cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
You'll also need to set a colander lined with a few layers of cheesecloth or a thin kitchen towel over a bowl.

First, pour the milk and cream into a large pot and stir in the salt. 

Bring to a boil over medium heat. You only need to stir it occasionally so it doesn't scald.   (Don't try to take pictures while doing this or it will boil over like mine did and you'll have a mess. If it does, just take close up pics the rest of the time and no one will notice.)

Once its come to a full boil, turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Let it sit for a minute or two until it begins to curdle.

Pour the mixture into your cheesecloth lined colander.  Let sit for 20-45 minutes at room temperature depending on the texture you want.  I always go the full 45 minutes because it makes it extra thick and creamy.  If your bowl seems to get too full of liquid before its done, just pour it out.

When the time is up, you have ricotta!  Use immediately or cover and refrigerate.  It will last up to 5 days if you don't eat it first!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Who knew that making homemade barbecue sauce was so easy? Now, there are a zillion different recipes for barbecue sauce and each BBQ place seems to have their own signature sauce. After playing around a bit, this is what I came up with for my own homemade barbecue sauce.
It is quick, simple and the best part-extremely cost effective. Most of the ingredients are pantry staples (I always keep a few bottles of ketchup in my cupboards) so you can always make it in a pinch.

1 bottle/pouch of ketchup 
1/4 cup brown sugar(If you don't like your sauce too sweet-cut down to 2 tbsp)
2 tbsp honey
1 tsp apple cider vinegar (again- you can omit if you don't like it too tangy- the ketchup already has vinegar in it and some people might think this is overkill- you decide)
1 tsp garlic powder
fresh ground pepper to taste
dash of paprika
few dashes of liquid smoke (available at City Shop)
salt to taste

Add all ingredients together. Heat over medium heat until all ingredients have dissolved. Simmer for 5 minutes. Taste. Add salt or extra seasonings if desired. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.

This barbecue sauce makes an excellent base for shredded barbecue chicken. Or you can saute 2 slices of bacon and 1/2 onion first. Then add the remaining ingredients to make a great sauce and add to cooked beans to make your own barbecue beans. Or my personal favorite- homemade barbecue chicken pizza. Yummy!