Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Adventures in Waffling

I've lived my whole life in houses without central air conditioning and the biggest drawback is that turning on the oven just isn't an option between Mother’s Day and Halloween. That means lazy vacation mornings in the summer can’t include whack and bake cinnamon rolls. Fortunately, the internet provided the solution; the humble waffle iron.  And so began my adventure...

Cinnamon Rolls


Ingredients
1 can of cinnamon rolls
How to Waffle It
Plug in your waffle iron (or turn it on if you have a fancy one with switches and dials and stuff). Once it gets hot, spray it with some nonstick cooking spray. Whack the can and separate out the rolls. Depending on the size of your waffle iron, put as many on as fit comfortably. Resist the urge to cram them all on there at once because you’re probably going to have to flip your rolls around. Since my waffle iron is hinged at the back, the stuff at the front of the plates doesn't get as much contact with the plates as the stuff in the back does. After 2 minutes or so, flip the rolls in the back over and swap them out with the ones in the front. Give them another couple of minutes to finish cooking and then carefully move them to a plate using tongs. Smear them with icing and put the next batch on.
Verdict
Unqualified success! I will never wait for my oven to heat up to have delicious cinnamon rolls.

Pigs in Blankets

Ingredients
Can of crescent rolls
Cocktail wieners
(I confess those are things I just happened to have in the fridge. I didn't buy them special for this)
How to Waffle It
While your waffle iron is heating up, whack open your can of crescent rolls and separate them out. Cut each one roughly in half. Roll up a cocktail wiener in each one. Don’t worry about neatness or getting them perfectly even. The waffle iron is a great equalizer when it squished them down. Space them out on your waffle iron so they have a little room on the sides. They cook pretty quickly, maybe 4 or 5 minutes. I experimented with putting small pieces of pepper jack cheese in some of them but I found they cheese got super-hot and leaked out so it wasn't discernible in the finished product. I need to experiment more with that. They screamed for a fancy dipping sauce but I was far too lazy and just served them with some ketchup and mustard.
Verdict
My taste tester declared these the BEST HING I MADE ALL WEEK! I agree, they were pretty tasty and adorable. If I ever got around to cleaning my house so I could have people over for an ironic cocktail party, I would totally serve these.

Donut French Toast

Ingredients
4 Glazed donuts (preferably a little stale)
2 eggs
2 Tbsp milk or half and half
Vanilla
Cinnamon
How to Waffle It
This one requires a little advanced prep.  Beat together the eggs, milk or half and half, vanilla, and cinnamon. I don’t measure seasonings so I can’t tell you exactly how much I used. Poke a bunch of holes in your donuts (enough for the eggs to get in but not so many they fall apart) and put them in a ziploc bag in the fridge for a while. How long is a while? That depends on how hungry you are. I think I left mine for about half an hour and they were fine. I wouldn't leave them in there too long or they will lose their structural integrity completely. Heat up your waffle iron and spray it down. When it’s hot, put as many donuts on as you can fit. After they've been on a minute or so, apply some gently pressure to the waffle iron to make sure the ones in front are making contact with the waffle iron. Because I’m paranoid about salmonella, I let these go for a while, maybe 5 or 6 minutes just to make sure they were cooked through. Just keep an eye on them because the sugar in the glaze can start to burn.
Verdict
Heaven. I've made donut bread pudding before but these had a caramelized layer of almost burnt sugar that formed a crust for the fluffy, gooey insides. No syrup or sugar of any kind needed on them. But I do recommend a side of something salty and porky to offset the sweetness. But honestly, what isn't better with a side of bacon?

Quesadilla

Ingredients
Flour tortillas (preferably a little bigger than your waffle iron)
Shredded Cheese
Salsa
Anything else you have lying around
How to Waffle It
This one is a no-brainer. Heat up your waffle iron, spray it down, slap down a tortilla, dump on the other stuff, add another tortilla on top, and close the waffle iron. I applied some pressure to try and flatten it out, which worked well for cheese distribution except I had some cheese oozing around the sides and onto the counter. When it’s the color you want, grab it with your tongs and carefully slide it onto a plate. Holding the plate right up the edge of the waffle iron helps to avoid more counter messes.
Verdict
Qualified success. I wasn't able to get the crispiness I like in a quesadilla but the insides were good and melty. The best part about a waffle quesadilla is you get really neat and even guidelines to cut perfect wedges. If you’re retentive like me, this is a huge bonus.

Hashbrowns

Ingredients
Frozen hashbrowns, right out of the bag
How to Waffle It
OK, this is even easier than the quesadilla. Heat up your waffler iron, spray it down, dump a bunch of frozen hashbrowns right out of the bag onto the waffle iron, and close the lid. That’s it. Wait for your desired level of brown and crispiness, slide them onto a plate, and salt liberally while still hot.
Verdict
Meh. I like super crispy hashbrowns and I was not able to achieve them. The top and bottom were almost burnt and the middle was still squishy. This is one thing I like better from a pan. That said, a nicer waffle iron with temperature controls might make crispy not burnt possible. Or, if you’re like my friend Pookie and you like squishy hashbrowns, this is perfect.

Sausage Cheese Biscuits

Ingredients
Can of biscuits
Cheese
Sausage (patties would be better but I did this with pieces of link sausage because that’s what was left over from breakfast)
How to Waffle It
Get your waffle iron heating up and sprayed down. Whack the can of biscuits and separate them out. Take a biscuit and split it in half. Cram some cheese and sausage into the biscuit and slap the other half on top. Carefully seal the edges all the way around. Repeat until you’re out of biscuits. I could only fit 3 on my waffle iron at a time and I did have to swap them front and back to get them evenly cooked.
Verdict
Blech. I’m not sure if it’s because I used low quality biscuits or if the flaky layered kind would have worked better (I used “buttermilk style) but these came out really tough and unappealing. I think the concept is sound but I need to play around with ingredients to see if I can make them more palatable.

All of my waffling was done with my little Sunbeam EasyClean waffle iron. True to its name, it was really easy to clean. Here’s a tip for cleaning if things get stuck on. While it’s still hot, UNPLUG IT! Soak a paper towel and wring it out. Stick in in the waffle iron and close it. Now just leave it. Let the steam loosen things up before you go in and wipe it out. That made even the crustiest cheese super easy to clean off.



Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tired of scrambled eggs

Greek Diner Breakfast Pie


Every three weeks, I work until the wee hours of the morning and then go back in the next day for an all-day meeting. Dinner that night is a trip to the local Greek diner, where I always order the same thing: a spinach and feta omelet with home fries (extra crispy). This dish is an homage to that meal.
Ingredients:
·         3 cups frozen hash browns (thawed)
·         1/2 bag of frozen spinach
·         1 tbsp olive oil
·         1 tsp chopped garlic
·         pinch of dried oregano
·         salt and pepper to taste
·         1/2 cup of feta cheese crumbles
·         3 eggs
·         1/2 cup half and half (or milk)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 450. Spray a pie pan with cooking spray and spread the hash browns on the bottom and up the sides. Bake for 15-20 minutes until it gets brown and crispy.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a big frying pan over medium heat. Add the garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and cook until the garlic is starting to toast a little. Add the frozen spinach and coat with the olive oil. Cook it down until the spinach is warmed through and enough moisture has evaporated so it doesn’t look as wet anymore.
Beat the eggs and half and half together, adding a pinch of salt and pepper.
Take the crust out of the oven and reduce the heat to 350. Spread the spinach over the bottom of the crust and sprinkle the feta cheese crumbles over it. Pour the eggs over everything. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the eggs are set.



Saturday, November 24, 2012

Muffin of the Week

Tollhouse Cookie Muffins

These muffins taste best hot out of the oven. I like them best with mini chocolate chips because they stay suspended in the batter more evenly but if all you have are the regular sized ones, those will work fine too.  


Ingredients
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbsp vanilla
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ cup chocolate chips

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and sugar
  3. Add the vanilla, milk, and melted butter to the wet mixture and whisk well to make sure the sugar is dissolved
  4. Put the remaining dry ingredients together in a larger bowl and whisk them together
  5. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet stuff
  6. Mix the batter gently just until the dry ingredients are moistened
  7. Grease a muffin tin and divide the batter between the muffin cups
  8. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes

Sunday, November 18, 2012

More Muffin Mania!


Banana Muffins

I expected these to taste like banana bread in muffin shape but they are much less dense. The same rule applies for bread though about ripeness. The riper the better, preferably a little overripe.

Ingredients
  • ½ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp  cinnamon
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. In a small bowl, mash the bananas until they are very smooth
  3. Whisk in the egg and sugar
  4. Add the vanilla, milk, and oil to the wet mixture and whisk well to make sure the sugar is dissolved
  5. Put the remaining dry ingredients together in a larger bowl and whisk them together
  6. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet stuff
  7. Mix the batter gently just until the dry ingredients are moistened
  8. Grease a muffin tin and divide the batter between the muffin cups
  9. Bake the muffins for 20-25 minutes

Monday, November 12, 2012

Muffin Mania

What's the point of blogging if you don't overshare every once in a while. When I split up with my husband, I found myself with no outlet for my unhealthy and overwhelming urge to nurture. The obvious solution was something that came to be known as Mini Muffin Mania! For a few weeks, my coworkers were inundated with nearly daily muffin deliveries. When I became unexpectedly unemployed, muffins seemed like the perfect outlet for my neurotic energy. Starting with a basic blueberry muffin recipe from my trusty Betty Crocker Cookbook and the internet, Muffin Mania is back with a vengeance.

Muffin Basics

I played around with a bunch of muffin recipes and finally hit on a basic recipe that I can use as a base for whatever flavor combinations I come up with.  But no matter what recipe you use, the basic process is the same. Mix the wet ingredients in one bowl and the dry ones in another. The additional ingredients get added to one of the mixtures, depending on whether they are wet or dry.
Wet Ingredients
  • ¾ cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • ½ cup sugar
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the egg and sugar together
  2. Add the vanilla, milk, and oil to the egg and sugar mixture and whisk well to make sure the sugar is dissolved
Dry Ingredients
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  1. Put everything together in a larger bowl and whisk it together

Add-ins
  • ½ cup tasty stuff
  1. If the add-ins are wet (like shredded apple or zucchini) mix them to the wet ingredients
  2. If they are really wet (like shredded apples) reduce the milk to ½ cup
  3. If the add-ins are dry or self-contained (like frozen blueberries or chocolate chips), mix them into the dry ingredients
  4. Coating them in the flour mixture will help keep them from sinking to the bottom of the muffins as they bake
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour in the wet stuff
  3. Mix the batter gently just until the dry ingredients are moistened
  4. Don't overmix the batter! That will make your muffins dense and tough
  5. Grease a muffin tin (I use non-stick spray) and divide the batter between the muffin cups
  6. Bake the muffins:
  7. For regular-sized muffins, bake 20-25 minutes
  8. For mini muffins, bake for 15-20 minutes
  9. For Texas-sized muffins, bake for 25-30 minutes

Apple Carrot Muffins

Notes: You can sprinkle the tops of these muffins with cinnamon sugar before baking for even more cinnamony goodness.


Ingredients
  • 1 medium apple, peeled and grated
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°
  2. In a small bowl, beat the egg and mix in the milk, oil, sugar, vanilla until the sugar dissolves. Add the shredded carrot and apple to the liquid mixture.
  3. In a larger bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.
  4. Make a well in the dry ingredients and add the liquid ingredients. Stir together just until everything is wet. Don't overmix it, the batter should be lumpy.
  5. Divide the batter evenly into a greased muffin pan.
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Caramel Apple Donut Muffins

These muffins are insanely delicious. Be careful not to burn your fingers dredging the hot muffins in the butter and cinnamon sugar. I found that dipping them in the butter then dropping them into a large bowl with the cinnamon sugar and swirling them around go the most even coating.  

Muffin Batter
  • 1 ¾ cup flour
  • 1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅓ cup oil
  • ¾ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ cup milk

Apple Filling
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 large apple
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar

Cinnamon Sugar Topping
  • ½ cup butter, melted
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon

Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°

First, get the filling going:
  1. Melt the butter on medium heat
  2. Cube the apple and add to the butter once it gets foamy
  3. Sprinkle the sugar and the cinnamon over the apples and stir until everything is well mixed
  4. Cut back the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes

While the apples are cooking, put the batter together:
  1. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon
  2. In a separate, large bowl, combine oil, sugar, egg and milk
  3. Add dry ingredients and stir only to combine

Now put it all together:
  1. Coat your muffin pan well with nonstick cooking spray
  2. Fill each muffin cup about a third of the way
  3. Add apples to the middle of the batter, making sure there's room around the edges
  4. Spoon batter into each muffin cup so it completely covers the apples
  5. Don't worry about making it cover completely, the batter will spread out as it bakes but try and cover as much of the apple as you can
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes
  7. Run a knife around the sides of the muffin and shake them out of the pan while still hot

Now the part that really makes them irresistible:
  1. Melt the butter in a bowl
  2. Mix the sugar with the cinnamon in another bowl
  3. Dip muffins in butter, then into the cinnamon sugar
  4. Let cool as long as you can resist them. 

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Chorizo for One


I was at the butcher the other day and got myself some chorizo. Then a week later I had a small stroke and decided to buy the jumbo package of chorizo at BJ's. Now I have a freezer full of chorizo. Luckily, it's tasty and relatively quick to prepare. Here are some of the things I've been doing with it.
Both these recipes make one serving. If you're cooking for more people, assume one sausage for each person.

NOTE: I'm talking about uncooked Mexican-style chorizo, not the cooked Spanish kind.

Chorizo Hash

This isn't so much a recipe, just a way to use some of your chorizo surplus and leftovers. When I made it this morning, I cut up some leftover French fries from 5 Guys.

Dice up some potatoes and add them to a preheated frying pan with some olive oil. Pour in a tablespoon or two of water and a little salt and pepper (how much salt you need depends on how salty your chorizo is). Put a lid on the pan. Meanwhile, remove the outer casing from chorizo. Once the water has evaporated form the pan, crumble the chorizo into the pan. Fry until the chorizo is cooked and the potatoes are a little crispy.

Herbed Chorizo and Garlic Grits

This recipe is loosely based on a really nice appetizer I helped a friend make at his Tapas-themed Christmas party last year.

Ingredients

  • 1 chorizo, frozen
  • 2 tbsp fresh herbs, chopped (I don't think it really matters what kind but I use thyme, rosemary, and oregano)
  • Black pepper
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Instant grits
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder


While the chorizo is still frozen, remove the outer casing and slice into ¼" to ½" slices. Add the olive oil to a frying pan over medium heat. Cook the chorizo until crispy. Add the fresh herbs and some black pepper. Take pan off the heat and splash in the vinegar.

Meanwhile, prepare the grits according to the instructions on the package and add garlic powder to taste. I always use chicken stock instead of water and add some garlic powder and black pepper to the stock while I'm bringing it up to a boil. Add salt based on how salty your stock is. Put the grits in a bowl and pour the chorizo on top. 

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Thanksgiving Mania Begins

My family loves cranberries of all kinds at Thanksgiving. We always had to have both the whole berry kind and the kind that comes out shaped like a can. Actually, we have to have 2 cans of the jellied kind every year because once, in the 40 year history of my Thanksgivings, my mother forgot to get the jellied kind and ever since then, someone always brings an emergency, back-up can.

One year I decided to get all fancy and make the whole berry sauce from scratch, which is when I discovered that making cranberry sauce from scratch is idiot simple. So after the first year when I just used the recipe on the bag, I started playing with the recipe and this is what I make now.

Ingredients:

  • 2 tangerines    
  • ¾ cup sugar    
  • 1-12 oz. package of fresh cranberries    
  • 1 tbsp crystallized ginger

Directions:

Slice the crystallized ginger into thin strips. Zest the oranges and juice them. Add enough water to the orange juice to make 1 cup total. Add sugar, zest, ginger, and orange juice to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cook it until it is the consistency you like. If you prefer your berries almost fresh, take it off the heat as soon as they pop (about 5 minutes.) if you like a much more jelly-like sauce, cook it down for 15. Pour the sauce into a bowl, let it cool down to room temperature and then refrigerate until Thanksgiving.

Notes:

The first year I made this, I got out my fancy zester and made the long, pretty orange zest curls. The flavor was great but a few members of my family mentioned that they didn't taste so great. So now I use my vegetable peeler and cut off big sheets at a time that are much easier to avoid biting into. If you are putting this sauce on a Thanksgiving table that strives to look like it came from the pages of Gourmet Magazine, go for the fancy curls. If your family is more into power eating than appearance, go for the big sheets of zest.

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