Sunday, June 28, 2009

Toasted Coconut Shortbread

My best friend is the pickiest eater I know. She's like a little kid sometimes. It's too spicy, it's too sour, it tastes "too foreign" (after a spoonful of tom gha), or it's got a funky texture. I love her to death, but she makes me want to scream sometimes. And as much as I like to rib her about... well pretty much everything, not the least of which are her food idiosyncrasies*, I get not liking texture. Sure, it has to be a more extreme case for me to be bothered, but there are some foods that you just can't get around the literal feeling of it.

I know for a fact that dessicated coconut is the bane of existence for many a person. I happen to be one of them. I love the flavor of coconut. I'll use cans of coconut milk in brownies. I'll mix up a pina colada in a heartbeat. What I won't do is touch anything with the dried out, soulless, pathetic excuse for food that is coconut flakes. Like cockroaches never die, you can't chew it and you'll never get it out of your mouth. Ever.

Lest you think I'm too hard on it, I keep giving it chances. Like everything else, I refuse to believe that I won't like it or that I will hate something based on superficial reasons. Before toasting, I even shoved a bite of crappy, non-chewable coconut in my mouth to sample for the millionth time, hoping that this time I would get over my texture issues. Nope. Still tastes like waxed paper. But oh boy, not after toasting. I was licking the residue out of my coffee grinder with a spoon for goodness sake.

I have a really hard time with rolled cookies and these were no exception. My rolling skills are practically nonexistent. Plus, with so much butter, I found it hard to find that happy medium where they weren't hard as a rock or buttery goo. My first batch burned. I even broke out my favorite cookie cutter and used it for the first time.

Alas, it was not to be. However, my second batch with a biscuit cutter worked out well. I still have some scraps to bake up if I'm feeling more adventurous later on.

Mine weren't quite as tender as I usually like my shortbread, but I think that was my fault. My rolling skills leave much to be desired, hence the lack of rolled cookie recipes on this site. They were just a tad too salty, but the coconut flavor was a delicate compliment to the buttery flavor I love so well. I would decrease the amount of salt next time and possibly add some coconut flavoring. I'm very happy with how these turned out. Even the best friend couldn't complain too much.

Toasted Coconut Shortbread
from Smitten Kitchen

I looked up this word to make sure I was spelling it right and lo! Check out one of its definitions:

An unusual or unexpected sensitivity exhibited by an individual to a particular food or drug. Idiosyncrasy is usually determined genetically and it may be due to a biological deficiency (e.g. an inability to metabolize a drug).

Too perfect, right? I learned something new today.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Guatemala Banana Bread

So, I was browsing this site the other day and noticed the glut of banana bread recipes. It's strange. Banana bread is something I think I only make once in a while. I suppose that's true, but it's also likely the most often made food on my blog along with roast chicken, roast potatoes, and baked mac. This is much more a case of my gross abuse of produce than any true affection for this quick bread. Sure it's tasty and good with a hot beverage. Sure it's easy to make and uses up what would otherwise go bad. But it's something I get sick of pretty easily. I have a low banana threshold most of the time.

Yet, here I am again, with a bunch of bananas glaring at me to use them before they're descended upon by the gnats living in my garbage disposal. And I shall answer this call! Only this time, I'm just coming off a pina colada streak and want something along those lines. At first I figured I'd just wing it, but that doesn't always work out for me. A search did turn up this recipe though.

Most banana bread recipes only call for a banana or two. I don't know about you, but when I've got some to use, I've got a bunch. This recipe called for 4 cups of mashed banana, so I thought great! I've got 5. I now know that a normal sized banana is about a 1/2 cup. With only 2 1/2 cups, I added some cream cheese that needed to be used and some vanilla yogurt that's also nearing its time. Bottom line, not enough banana. Next time I'll know.

The recipe also calls for raisins and cashews. Since I was going for more of a cocktail vibe, I added macadamia nuts and dried pineapple pieces soaked overnight in Myer's dark rum. Being an adult is cool. I even saved the leftover rum to pour on top of the loaf. Alas, even the booze couldn't save this loaf. It was too dry and didn't have much flavor. I don't blame the recipe though. I think I'll try again with enough banana and see how that goes. Sigh. Another time perhaps.

Monday, June 15, 2009

44 Clove Garlic Soup

Nearly two years ago, several months after I started reading my favorite food blog, Smitten Kitchen, Deb wrote up a post featuring this tantalizing recipe. 44 cloves of garlic? Are you shitting me? Can one person eat something so garlicky and not explode. Well, yes they can. Quite happily as it turns out. I've wanted to try it since then and have kept it in the back of my mind. Well, something called to me recently and I decided it was time to whip this up.

I've roasted garlic maybe twice before with decent results. This time was not exactly bad, but it wasn't great. I think it was a mixture of the added oil and the lid on my glass dish, but the garlic ended up soft and gummy. Getting it out of the paper shell was no small feat. Actually, I resorted to something like squeezing huge, fragrant zits. Really. It was weird and it felt a little too personal.

Overall, the soup was very good. However, with so much garlic, after a few sips the back of your throat starts to burn a little. Since I wasn't really in a soup mood after that first night, and I didn't want it to go to waste, I tried turning it into a risotto. This was just the ticket. It used up the rest of my rice and orzo plus all of the soup, so I was very happy. About 1 cup of rice-ish mixture, sauteed in butter until golden brown, then he rest of my 2 1/2 cups of soup, some wine, some chicken stock, and even some milk. Quite of bit of stirring later and we have a very garlicky, yet still manageable dish. I proud of myself for all this frugality I'm practicing by not letting everything die in my refrigerator.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Easy Santa Fe Chicken

I've been working like crazy over here and tomorrow is the first day of summer school. Bleh. Not only bleh, but 6 straight hours of it with no real break between my two classes. So far the only things I can think to bring or snack type foods for bathroom breaks. We'll see how that goes.

However, when I get home from all that I want a real meal. But what to make? I have some leftover chicken broth and tomato paste, as well as a few yellow squash. I searched for some kind of chicken dish, but not impressed and mostly thought I could do better. So I did.

This is a typical recipe for me. 3 steps, 1 pan, easy no matter how hard you try to make it. This serves 2-3 people. Add or subtract whatever you want.

Easy Santa Fe Chicken

2 lb chicken parts (I used thighs and less than 2 lb)
a couple yellow squash
1 little can of corn, drained
1/2 can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 onion, chopped
roughly 1 cup of chopped tomatoes or 3-4 T tomato paste
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 cup chicken broth, or other simmering liquid
cooking oil
salt and pepper

Sear chicken over med-high in a little oil, 2-4 minutes a side depending on thickness. You're not cooking it through. Set aside and drain most of the oil from pan.

Saute yellow squash and onions over medium until soft, about 5 minutes with a lid on. Add garlic and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Think ahead about this though. If you plan to let it simmer for a while, I would suggest not adding the squash until the next step so it still has some shape later.

Simmer all ingredients on low in the same pan, lid on but askew, for about 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Season with salt and pepper, add chili powder if you like. You can finish by removing chicken and turning up the heat on the vegetables to cook off extra liquid. I just left it a little saucy. Serve with cheese or over rice if desired.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Homemade Granola Bars

Over the years, I've tried damn near every brand of granola on the market and haven't been enthralled with any of them. Some are too hard, some are too sweet, ect. Since starting this new job, I've tried a few easy breakfast ideas for the commute to work. So far none have done very well and I end up getting fast food.

Then I remembered a blog post I ran across a few months ago. I was looking for fast breakfast ideas for school. The chance to make my own granola bars was too good to pass up, so I saved this site for another time. Well, that time is now.

Can you find wheat germ where you live? I never thought it was terribly exotic, but none of the stores down here carry it. It's bizarre. However, our Publix did have some organic flax seed. I've never had it before, so I threw it in the basket and toasted it up for this recipe. Wow. If that's what it tastes like then I am all about flax. It's got a wonderful nutty, earthy flavor that reminds me greatly of toasted sesame seeds. I suggest toasting all the other ingredients first and adding the flax in for the last few minutes because they're so small they brown early.

Aside from the flax, I used a bag of tart dried cherries and half a bag of diced dried mango. Everything else was from the pantry, and you know how happy that makes me. Assembly was easy and the house smelled fantastic. The recipe made enough for 12 normal sized granola bars. Overall, these were incredibly tasty. They're soft, but not soft enough to fall apart. Since I'm looking for a breakfast item, I might fool around with adding more protein to these. Maybe a little protein powder? More nuts? These could probably do with a little more fruit as well.

I took a few of these for my two day work trip. I ate all of them. Seriously, eating 5 our of the 12 in two days is a record for me. I usually can't stomach to eat one a day of the normal store bought ones. I think I'll have fun playing around because I am definitely making these again.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Eggplant Parmesan

It's that time of year again, ladies and gents. The time for free produce! Yes, in fact I received my first bit of it yesterday: one huge eggplant. Now, I've had a much longer week than anticipated and wasn't really up to a fussy recipe. Add to that the actual fussy recipes I've made in the last two weeks that I've yet to post, and I was just feeling something simple, good, and quick to post. Et voila! Eggplant Parmesan.

Surprisingly enough, I've never made it before. This will be quickly remedied because it was DELICIOUS. Seriously, so good I couldn't believe it. And it's a simple hour affair with very minimal work.

Slice up a couple eggplants, enough to fill your casserole dish. Sweat them for about 20 minutes with lots of salt while you get everything else ready. Rinse well. Dip in an egg wash, then into seasoned breadcrumbs. Bake for about 20 minutes at 350F.

Pour spaghetti sauce into the bottom of your dish. Layer eggplant, lots of cheese, then more sauce until you've gotten it filled. End with a layer of cheese. Bake for another 30 minutes.

I even used up a jar of old spaghetti sauce before it went all moldy and used this eggplant right away so it would not have to suffer the fate of some produce of which we do not now speak. On the same note, I'm making the effort to clean out my refrigerator. In the very back on the lowest shelf, I found a few bags. As expected, they were full of bad food. However, upon closer inspection, I noticed that this food dated back to my first boyfriend. Yes, kids. That food was over a year and a half old. Although this has given me great respect for the quality of Ziplock bags, I have lost just a little more respect for myself. Wish me luck.