Monday, January 28, 2008

Lemon Soup Meringue Pie

This month's Daring Bakers Challenge was to make Lemon Meringue Pie. I was excited to try this recipe since it was my favorite dessert when I was growing up. I think I have made one or two in the past but it has been a LONG time.

It is definitely lemon season around here. I have a basket full of lemons from our lemon tree and several bags of Meyer lemons that friends have given me. I love using Meyer lemons; they are a little sweeter and very juicy.

The challenge was set by Jen at The Canadian Baker. You can find the recipe on her site. The recipe seemed pretty straightforward though a number of bakers reported having problems with the filling. I had waited to the last day to make the pie but it seemed like I would have plenty of time. The dough for the pie crust came together fine and it was easy to roll out. The kids had fun helping me roll out the dough and then they played with the extra dough. I didn't have pie weights so I raided the kid's piggy bank and used about $5 in change in the foiled lined crust. After baking the crust had shrunk a bit and didn't look as pretty but it was a nice golden brown.

Since I had to let it cool for the filling, I went to the grocery store though that took a whole lot longer than I expected. Once I got home, it was close to dinner time so I assembled the rest of the pie while heating up soup and boiling noodles. The filling involves cooking cornstarch and sugar in water until thick, adding it to egg yolks and cooking a bit more and then adding butter and lemon juice plus zest. The cornstarch and sugar got very thick, after adding the egg yolks and cooking a bit more, it was still very thick. But after adding the butter and lemon juice, it was more like soup. I thought it might thicken up more as it cooled but after adding the meringue on top, baking it for 20 more minutes, and then letting it cool, it was definitely not set.

Even though it wasn't pretty, the pie still tasted good. It was more like buttery crust and meringue with lemon sauce on top but it was still good. The lemon filling was tart but went well with the sweet meringue. I definitely want to try this again and get it right.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Carmel Chicken

I have two recipes for Carmel Chicken, one from a newspaper food section and the other from a cookbook The Best of Vietnamese and Thai Cooking by Mai Pham (called Gooey Ginger Chicken). I like both of them and they are very similar. Recently though, I found another recipe for Carmel Chicken in a food blog, Anne's Food posted on Jan 16, 2008. This recipe calls for less sugar and no ginger but with the added ingredients of cider vinegar and worcestershire sauce. While the combination of sugar and vinegar with chicken did not promise to be a favorite with V, I thought the worcestershire sauce might give it a slightly different flavor that he might like. I decided to give it a try. Plus it let me try out my new julienne tool that I got for Christmas to julienne some carrots.

It was a very easy recipe to make and it only took about 30 minutes to prepare, a definite plus. I love the sweet and slightly sour taste of the sauce and the combination of sliced sweet onions and bits of carrot. My mom was visiting and she thought it was good too. G tried it, said she liked it, but then didn't eat any more. When V got home, he ate it but didn't give it rave reviews. I guess I will have to save this for when I'm cooking for just myself.

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Green Smoothie

When A was 2 yr old, he would eat broccoli all the time. Sometimes, it would be the only thing he would eat for dinner. At some point though he gradually started refusing to eat broccoli and then anything that resembled a vegetable, except for raw carrots. He even refuses to try dishes that contain a few bits of parsley.

Recently, A has been requesting the Odwalla Superfood Smoothie which is recognizable by its lovely shade of green, instead of chocolate milk when we have gone to Starbucks. The first few times I talked him into something else, but then I decided to let him try it. And he liked it. Looking at the ingredients, it's not surprising as the first two ingredients are apple and mango. The green color comes from wheatgrass.

We were shopping at Whole Foods yesterday and A found the 1/2 gallon container of Superfood Smoothie. I did not want to spend $7 for juice so I promised him that I would make a green smoothie at home. So tonight for dinner I mixed in a blender a very ripe frozen banana, a handful of frozen mango chunks, partially thawed, two spoonfuls of lowfat Greek yogurt, some orange juice and 1/4 cup chopped spinach (Trader Joes frozen chopped spinach, microwaved for 1 minute). I mixed everything in the blender for about 2 minutes to make sure it was well blended. It was definitely green though lighter in color than the Superfood Smoothie.

The verdict? A thought it was great and wanted more. G decided she had to try it as well. She also really liked it and took a few guesses at the secret green ingredient. I guess this is one way to get the kids to eat more veggies.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Orange Cranberry Bread

The kids were interested in making something this afternoon and we had an excess of oranges so I decided to try making Orange Cranberry Bread. I had just seen a recipe for Orange Raspberry Pecan Bread at Baking Bites but we had cranberries rather than raspberries and G doesn't like pieces of nuts.

G and A loved juicing the oranges. I have a hand press juicer that works well. G also enjoyed zesting the orange with the microplane zester and she did a good job. Then they took turns measuring flour, sugar, baking powder and soda. G stirred and A added the wet ingredients to the bowl.

Once in the oven, the kids checked on the baking bread every few minutes and then were eager to try it once out of the oven. G liked it but A decided not to try it. Oh well, more for us. It was good with a subtle orange flavor and I liked the contrast with the cranberries. V thought the cranberries were a little tart so maybe next time I will try it with raspberries.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Texas Chili

Today I made my favorite chili recipe, lots of meat and red sauce, and more importantly NO BEANS. I cut it out of the Williams Sonoma catalog years ago (I couldn't find any reference to it on their website). It is also a fairly simple recipe of meat, chili powder, garlic, oregano and cumin. Commercial chili powder is usually a mix of chili powder mixed with oregano and cumin (Cooks Illustrated recommends Spice Islands), but today all I had was pure ground New Mexico red chili powder so I went with that. It is fairly mild so the only heat came from the cumin. I ended up with only about 2.5 lb of meat instead of 5lb so I cut everything in half. That was fine except the chili tended to cook down faster over the 1.5 hr of simmering so I added more water at the end.

This recipe is a little unusual it uses olive oil to cook the flour. The spices are cooked in the oil for a short time before added to the simmering meat. The oil sizzles as it is added to the pot and the mixture looks very red at the beginning. After 1.5 hr of simmering, the chili is a darker shade, looking more like rich chocolate.

I usually serve this chili over rice with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.

Texas Chili (from William Sonoma catalog)

5lb lean beef, cubed
3 Tbsp sugar
2 1/2 Tbsp salt
1 quart water

3/4 cup olive oil
5 Tbsp flour
5 cloves garlic, minced
6-8 Tbsp ground chili
1 tsp pepper
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin

Combine beef, sugar, salt and water. Bring to a boil, skim and reduce heat immediately to a simmer.

Heat oil in skillet, add flour and cook for 2 min without browning. Add garlic, chili powder, pepper, oregano, and cumin to oil, cook briefly and add to meat. Simmer chili for about 1 1/2 hr until tender.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Easiest, Most Delicious Dinner

For Christmas Eve, we had the best but easiest dinner in the world (my favorite anyway): fresh, Dungeness crab. Apparently everyone else at Whole Foods thought it was a good idea too. I went to the store in the late morning and the customers were three deep at the fish counter (the only counter without a number system). Everyone was ordering 3-4 crabs a piece and they had extra people in the back working hard to clean and crack all the crabs. I ordered 3 crabs for dinner which seemed like a lot since it would only be me and V doing most of the eating. G also likes crab but A wouldn't touch it. I think he had applesauce instead.

Dinner was very simple. Cracked crab in a huge bowl on the table, lots of melted butter as well as mayonnaise mixed with Dijon mustard (one of the few times I will eat mayonnaise) to dip the crab in, garlic bread, and some steamed broccoli mixed with some leftover garlic butter. Amazingly, all the crab was devoured. I had hoped for a little leftover to add to scrambled eggs Christmas morning, but oh well.